GREEN BAY, Wis. – Before he said anything else late Friday night, Brett Favre wanted to know this: What were the chances his old general manager, Ron Wolf, gets elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next day?
Favre had just emerged from two days of hunting in the woods of Alabama with Steve Hutchinson, his former teammate from his two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, and had not read or heard any of the scuttlebutt surrounding Saturday's Hall of Fame vote.
Foremost on Favre's mind was Wolf's possible induction. Wolf, the former Green Bay Packers general manger, is a finalist in the newly created "contributor" category.
"Man, I sure hope it happens," Favre said during a telephone interview. "Of course, I'm biased to Ron."
And then one of the NFL's all-time greatest talkers – and, of course, all-time best quarterbacks – spent the next 20 minutes telling stories about Wolf, the man who traded a first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Falcons in early 1992 to bring Favre to Green Bay.
That was one of the many moves that Wolf made to resurrect a downtrodden franchise that had not sniffed an NFL championship in nearly three decades.
"People don't think about it now because I played 20 years and had a great career, but he stuck his neck out to go get me," Favre said. "To give up a first-round pick for a guy who was drafted in the second round, who didn't play and was definitely unproven, and my goodness to hand him over to Mike Holmgren, an unproven guy as far as a head coach is concerned. That was his first move, and it ended up being a tremendous move. [Holmgren was] the greatest coach I ever played for at any point in my career. And I think getting me – and I'm not saying getting me because I thought I was great – just the risk was an unbelievable move, one that no one could see but him."
Favre wasn't even sure who Wolf was when the phone rang at his parents' home in Kiln, Mississippi, on Feb. 11, 1992. He had just hung up with June Jones, then the Falcons' offensive coordinator. It was Jones who broke the news to Favre that he had been traded to the Packers. Favre and his brother, Scott, were standing in the family kitchen still stunned over Jones' phone call when Wolf called.
"I had heard of Ron Wolf, but I don't even know if I knew he was in Green Bay at that point," Favre said. "He said, 'Look, I'm the GM in Green Bay and we just traded for you and I want you to know that we're very excited about having you and having you lead our team.'
"From Day 1, there was one thing about Ron: He was always ultra-positive with me. Of course, Holmgren, as a coach you see things a little different. You want to win football games with whoever you see fit, but he knew that Ron wanted me to play. I always felt this sense of comfort that no matter what, Ron's got my back."
The Packers, who went 101-57 (including playoffs) and won one Super Bowl in Wolf's tenure as general manager, went 9-7 in that first season with Wolf, Holmgren and Favre, who became the starter four games into that season. It was just the Packers' fourth winning season since their last NFL championship under Vince Lombardi in 1967.
In Favre's eyes, the change really began the next offseason.
"Just as importantly, he made it cool to come to Green Bay, no pun intended, and that was because he got Reggie White," Favre said. "You know as well as I do – and no one thinks about it now because everybody would love to go to Green Bay and play – getting Reggie White brought serious credibility to coming to Green Bay. It wasn't just a place to be shipped off to in order to finish your career.
"Look, the players ultimately have to play at some point. You stick your neck out there for them, you pay them lots of money, you give up draft picks for them, and there are so many debacles that you can point to in the history of this league that didn't work. But yet his did. He can't win ballgames for anyone, but he can set the table, and that's what he did. I just think when you look at where Green Bay is today – [current GM] Ted Thompson's another one, he learned from the best in Ron and I think Ted's done an excellent job – there's just a filter-down effect from what he did that makes him unquestionably deserving of a Hall of Fame induction."