CANTON, Ohio -- Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre spoke for nearly 36 1/2 minutes as the final speaker at Saturday’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. Here’s the transcript of his off-the-cuff speech that he made without a single note.
“Thank you. Thank you. I'm going to ask Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson if I can play the first series tomorrow night.
“All this excitement has me wanting to call Ed Werder and spread the word again. But thank you so much. Thank you. I'm not surprised one bit at the Packer fans here. This is incredible, incredible. So I thank you. Thank you, Canton. Thank you, Hall of Fame. Thank you Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.
“Believe me, I'm blessed. I'm an extremely blessed man. I look at my family, what a lucky man. To play a game that I love so much for 20 years, to have all the wonderful things happen, what a blessing. To share in that joy with you guys here tonight, what an incredible night, what an incredible week. And having my wife introduce me was an easy choice, considering she was there long before my first touchdown pass, long after the last.
“December 18, 1983, I was 14 years old. My dad took my older brother, Scott, and I to see the last regular-season game the Saints would play that year as they were playing the Rams. Now, I was pretty certain at 14 years old of what I was going to do in my future, and that was I was going to be the next Roger Staubach or Archie Manning or Joe Montana. But this was the first and only game that I would ever see in person, and if the Saints won this game, they would have made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, so it was a pretty electric crowd.
“And as we sat in our seats prior to kickoff, the crowd stood and they pointed in the direction of the Saints tunnel, and as I stood I saw this long-gray-haired, scruffy-beard player emerging from the tunnel. And I knew then and there as goose bumps ran up my arm and the hair on the back of my neck stood up that that was what I was destined to do and be. I wanted to be that player.
“Well, that player happened to be none other than Kenny Stabler. I knew, of course, I didn't have many choices, it was football, baseball, or bust for me. I didn't have many choices. But I knew then and there that I wanted to be and feel what Kenny Stabler was feeling. What an exciting moment for me.
“The other part about this story that's important is when we returned home that night, what we didn't know was our mother had set up a surprise birthday party for my older brother, Scott, who was turning 17. Well, I unknowingly entered the house first to a large eruption of surprise, and of course it was not my birthday, and as you can imagine a 14-year-old boy in that situation with all his classmates there was red-faced and embarrassed and I was looking for the quickest way to get to my bedroom. So as I bolted and ducked my head and made my way through all of our classmates, there was one person that caught my eye and one person only. Well, it didn't matter. I went and hid in my room, and as I got up the nerve to come out later, that person and I, we played basketball, we talked. We played basketball, we talked. And several days later, as we used to say back in the day, we started going together.
“Well, that person happened to be my future wife, Deanna, by far the strongest and most courageous person I know. She's a wonderful mother of two daughters, an exceptional athlete not only then but now, as she most recently is competing in an Ironman in the next two months, which is incredible. Definitely a strong woman of faith, she fought cancer in the public eye, and not only won, but she managed to inspire so many, including myself, along the way.
“In the process she formed her own foundation that has helped countless women in their fight with breast cancer as well. And I'll say this: She's definitely the best-looking grandmother I have ever seen. As our two grandsons are here, Parker and A.J., and I know they're ready to go to bed and they want Papa to stop talking right now.
“But one more thing about my wife. She's as beautiful today -- and I'm not going to say her age because I got in trouble last year in Green Bay for saying that -- but she's as beautiful today as she was December 18, 1983, in my living room.
“Our two daughters are here. I mentioned my grandsons. Our oldest daughter, Brittany, who is now an attorney back in Hattiesburg and extremely bright and beautiful young lady. And I'm so happy she takes after her mother. As I said, she's a mother of two beautiful grandsons -- I see you smiling, buddy. I love you. Her husband, Alex, is here. We couldn't be more proud of. We love Alex to death, and we're so thankful that you're here.
“Our youngest daughter, Breleigh, just turned 17 and just started her senior year of high school last week, and, man, I can't believe how time flies.
“For all of us up here who have children, we find that they grow up and they're out of the house very quickly, and the things that our parents said to us that we said, 'Yeah, right Mom, yeah, right Dad,' well, they come true. So the same things I tell my daughters and have told them: Love them while you can, they grow up quickly.
“Breleigh is an exceptional volleyball player. She has not made up her mind yet where she's going, and like her sister, she's extremely bright and beautiful. And, again, I'm glad she takes after her mother.
“My mother-in-law who for 33, 34 years has been by far my biggest fan. I have never thrown an interception that has been my fault according to my mother-in-law, Ann. We all know her as Mama. She's helped raise our kids. She's lived with us in New York, and Minnesota and Green Bay, and she's helped raise grandkids, other people's kids, you name it. She's one of the most patient and loving women you'll ever (choking up) -- I'm not even halfway through. Help me out here.
“Kevin [Greene], Kevin, give me some water. You got some water? Sorry about that. By the way, I'm glad you're on my team now. Anyway, as long as it's not alcohol.
“My mother-in-law who I love dearly, as well as the rest of my family. My sister-in-law, Christie, Deanna's younger sister, her and her husband, Josh, are here. And I can't tell you how many times they've helped us and made life so much easier for us over my 20 years of playing. So I thank you guys.
“My mother, who just recently had her hip replaced, and by no means was she going to be put on waivers for this, she was going to be here. She is here. My mother taught me that being there for your children -- my mother taught me that being there for your children is absolutely important. I never, not one time, remembered my parents ever not being there at a sporting event, any school function, you name it. They were always there. We ate dinner together, we ate breakfast together, we rode to school together, we did everything together, and that's something that's been lost in this generation.
“I watched my mother teach special education at Hancock North Central High School for many, many years, and at that time I didn't appreciate the patience and the type of person that it takes to do that type of job. But I learned by watching her and being around her students that treating everyone as an equal and with respect is not only important, but essential. So, Mom, I say thank you, I love you.
“Mom was the one who always told us she loved us and was the caregiver. And you had to know my father, he was the heavy-handed one. So it was a good blend of a one-two punch. But, Mom, I love you, and thank you so much.
“My two brothers, Scott and Jeff, my sister, Brandi, they're sitting here in the front row. I think they all would agree I love them so much. It was definitely a fun childhood. We competed. We fought. We ate. We competed. We fought. We ate. We loved each other at the end of the day, and we got up the next morning and we started it all over again. But it was wonderful. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. And I love you guys so much. Thank you.
“My agent, Bus [Cook], I'm always reluctant to introduce him as my agent because it sounds like it's so non-personal, and Bus is family. And he's family to not only me but to my entire family. He's the best at what he does, and he's been like a friend, a brother, a father at different times over the 30 years we've known each other. So, Bus, I love you, and thank you for many years.
“And last but certainly not least is my father. And I'll tell you of course it's been talked about a lot at the Oakland game, and that -- I'll tell you a story. My father would have introduced me here tonight. And Deanna and I had, after the game in Oakland, chartered a plane. Our two daughters went to Mississippi. She flew out late Saturday night and was there throughout, and we had chartered a plane back from Oakland to get Christmas gifts back in Green Bay, take a brief nap and go to the service and Christmas back in Mississippi. And on the -- and let me say this first about NFL fans. Oakland Raider fans in particular, that night -- and I had played in Oakland before, and I think everyone here who has played in Oakland either as the home team or the away team will all agree they can be downright nasty. I've seen it. I've witnessed it. But I'll say this: That night the tremendous respect and honor that was shown to me and my family from the Oakland Raider fans was spectacular.
“And although we didn't ask for it, Deanna and I got a police escort to the airport that I can promise you would have made any president proud. So I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
“But on our flight back it was a long flight, and as you can imagine there were a lot of emotions as we had just won the game, and it was probably the best game that I'd ever played in, but that really didn't matter at that point. We laughed and we cried and we tried to sleep. We laughed and we cried. And one time in particular Deanna says to me -- you'd have had to know my father. My father was short on praise and long on tough love. If he was ever to praise me, I was not to hear it. It was always you can do better. He was always pushing me to be better. And that was OK. Never did I hear him say, 'Son, you've arrived. You're the best. That was awesome. Great game.' It was always, 'Yeah, but.'
“So Deanna says to me on the plane, 'You know, your dad had said to me that he had hoped or could not wait for the day that you were inducted into the Hall of Fame so he could introduce you.' And up until that moment I had never thought about the Hall of Fame, and I mean no disrespect to the Hall of Fame. I say this with the utmost respect for all you guys. I had dreamed of playing in the NFL, believe me, way more than I thought about my schoolwork. I thought about being Archie Manning, running around, throwing underhand passes. I thought about being my childhood favorite, Roger Staubach and throwing it to Preston Pearson or Drew Pearson and handing it off to Tony Dorsett, being Kenny Stabler coming out of tunnel. I had thought of those things so many times, but I never thought of the Hall of Fame until that moment.
“So a new goal had entered into my mind then and there, and I said to myself: I will make it to the Hall of Fame; that I would make it to the Hall of Fame so I could acknowledge the fact of how important he was. (choking up). This is tougher than any third-and-15, I can assure you. So I could acknowledge the importance of him and my career and my life, which he was a tremendous part of my life. He taught me toughness. Boy, did he teach me toughness. Trust me, there was no room for crybabies in our house. He taught me teamwork, and by all means no player was ever more important than the team.
“My father, for those who don't know, chose to run the Wishbone, which some of you younger generation people do not even know what that is, but it never entailed throwing. But that was the type of coach he was, and that was the type of dad he was. He would never showcase his son's talents or anyone else's talents for their good rather than the team's good.
“So then and there in that moment on that plane I was determined for selfish reasons to get to this point to acknowledge how important he was. I would not be here before you today without my father. There is no doubt whatsoever.
“One more thing about my father, and this is something I've never told anyone, including Deanna. My dad was my high school football coach. He was the head football coach, and he coached me and my two brothers. But I never had a car growing up. I always rode to and from school with my father in his truck, so he was always the last to leave the building because he had to turn the lights off, lock up, and then we made our way home.
“So it was the last high school football game of my high school career, and although I don't remember how I had played before, and I don't remember how I played in the last game, what I do remember is sitting outside the coach's office, say, on a Wednesday, waiting for my father to come out so we could leave. It was dark. And I overheard my father talking to the three other coaches, and I heard him -- and I assume I didn't play as well the previous week only because of what he said, and he said, 'I can assure you one thing about my son, he will play better. He will redeem himself. I know my son. He has it in him.'
“And I never let him know that I heard that. I never said that to anyone else. But I thought to myself: That's a pretty good compliment, you know? My chest kind of swelled up. And, again, I never told anyone. But I never forgot that statement and that comment that he made to those other coaches. And I want you to know, Dad, I spent the rest of my career trying to redeem myself.
“(choking up) I'm working on it. I'm trying to get through it.
“But I spent the rest of my career trying to redeem myself and make him proud, and I hope I succeeded.
“Thank you. Thank you. So never discount the importance of being a father and the statements that you make. Whether you think your kids hear, you're very important to your children. And the lesson is we come and go very quickly, so love them each and every day.
“Now I want to thank some people. First I want to thank the University of Southern Mississippi. For those of you who don't know, I was offered one scholarship, and that was Southern Miss. And I was happy to take it, and I was determined to prove them right. Jim Carmody, Curley Hallman, Jack White, Rodney Allison, Jeff Bower, Steven Maples were coaches that made an impact on my college life. I wouldn't trade my four years at Southern Miss for anything. And I'm also extremely honored to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest NFL players of all time and certainly one of the greatest Southern Miss players of all time, and that's Ray Guy.
“There's two coaches in particular that were at Southern Miss at the time that meant more than anyone. Mark McHale was offensive line coach, and Mark was the recruiter in the area of the Mississippi Gulf Coast which I played, and he fought tooth and nail to get me a scholarship and it came down to the last hour. When I say last hour, I literally mean last hour. And he fought and he believed in me. I thank him so much. He was coaching high school football back in West Virginia, probably watching right now. So, Coach, I thank you so much for believing in me and sticking it out and giving me that opportunity.
“The second coach is a guy who has since passed away. His name is Thamas Coleman. And as we called him back then, 'Famous Thamas' was a great guy, and I found out this story. This was a story that Ron Wolf would later tell me after I started playing in Green Bay. When he came down after my senior year to watch film in my senior season, and I believe Ron at the time was with the Jets and was looking for a quarterback. After he watched this film of my senior year, upon leaving the building, Thamas Coleman said, 'Ron, what do you think?' And Ron Wolf said, 'Not that impressed.' And he said, 'I'm not sure if you know, Brett had a really bad car wreck right before the start of this season and he lost 34 inches of his intestines, he fractured a vertebrae in his back. Not only was he not supposed to play, we didn't think he would. And he suffered other injuries as well. But he did start four years for us and I encourage you to go back in and watch the three previous years.'
“Well, Ron Wolf took his advice and went back in and watched the film. And upon leaving, Thamas Coleman said, 'Well, what did you think?' And as I like to say, the rest is history. So thank you, Coach Coleman, and thank you, Ron Wolf.
“Speaking of Ron Wolf, I stood right back there on the back of this stage last year and I watched Ron Wolf be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I could not have been more proud. Ron Wolf is the single most important person to the Packers' rebirth than any other person out there, player, coach, GM. It had been almost 25 years since the Packers had any success when Ron Wolf took over. And since then, we all know what the Packers have done. Without Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren would not have coached in Green Bay. There would not have been a Brett Favre. There would not have been a Favre to [Sterling] Sharpe and [Donald] Driver and [Robert] Brooks and [Antonio] Freeman, [Mark] Chmura, Keith Jackson, Dorsey Levens, Edgar Bennett, Frank Winters, Santana Dotson, Andre Rison -- the list goes on and on. The single biggest free agent acquisition in NFL history is Reggie White.
“As I like to say, Ron Wolf made it cool to come to Green Bay. So I thank you, Ron, for believing in me, seeing something in me that others didn't see, probably including myself, and sticking your neck out there for one of the riskiest and craziest trades in NFL history when you decided to trade a first-round pick for me with Atlanta. So I say thank you, Ron. I love you. You mean more to me than anyone.
“The man he hired, Mike Holmgren, the greatest head coach I've ever played for. I see him sitting with my good friend, Matt Hasselbeck. We both can attest he's one of the toughest and most demanding coaches you'll ever be around. He's a true perfectionist, and I'm sure Steve and Joe would say the same thing. But he was a very fair guy, and I know that because could you imagine being Mike Holmgren and leaving San Francisco, tremendous success, coaching two of the greatest players of all time in Joe Montana and Steve Young, and getting stuck with Brett Favre.
“Now, I thought I was good, but I had no idea what good was, and I am so thankful that Mike chewed my ass but believed enough in me to give me another chance. Because there were many times he could have and should have pulled me, and had he done that, there's probably someone else standing here before you talking. So I'm thankful, Mike, for you and believing in me.
“Three other coaches, and there were so many other coaches. And they told me 8 to 10 minutes, and I've got every one of these guys clocking me right now. I'm going for a world record. And I don't give a damn. I love you, Chris, I love you. Kent Johnston, the best man at my wedding, the strength coach for the Packers at that time. He's now with San Diego. I love you. And Steve Mariucci who is out here somewhere, Mooch. And Andy Reid, who was here a couple nights ago. Those guys could not have been more important at that time in my career. They're not only awesome coaches, but they're great guys.
“I needed a buffer, if you will, when it came to Mike. And, quite frankly, he needed a buffer, and there was none better than Mooch and Andy. And I love those guys, and I thank you so much for believing in me and being there for me.
“Now, like Orlando [Pace], Coach [Tony] Dungy, Kevin, I want the guys that I played with to stand up. I'd love to call each and every one of you out by name, and this is college, if there's one, stand up, if there's 100, stand up. I love you guys. I love you.
“Let me tell you, and this may not be a secret, I loved playing with you guys. It was a blast. I loved carrying you off in the fireman carry. I loved tackling you. I loved slapping Marco [Rivera] on the ass. I loved it. I loved it. And he loved it, too.
“And for everyone up here they would all agree, that's what it's all about. Not necessarily slapping them on the ass, but loving your teammates, competing, fighting, scratching, tough losses, tough wins, man, that's what it's all about. I loved it. And I love you guys.
"The fans, the fans.
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I tell you, Packer fans are pretty special. I often wondered what it was like when Mike and Matt Hasselbeck came back to play when they were with Seattle, and then I found out. It ain't easy. It ain't easy. But I thank you so much from Atlanta to Minnesota, 20 years. Make no mistake about it, I will be remembered as a Packer.
"When I went to Green Bay last year and my family and I, we walked on the field, I'll be honest with you, I didn't know what to expect as I went back. The last time I walked to Lambeau, it wasn't real pretty. So I honestly didn't know what it would be like. I do know Packer fans and I know how faithful they are. But I did play for the Vikings (crowd boos). But when I walked out on that field -- settle down, settle down. When I walked on the field, I have to admit, 70,000 people not there to watch a game but to celebrate a career of a player was absolutely amazing, and you're to be commended for that. So I thank all the fans across the country and in particular you guys.
“It leads me to my reflection over my 20 years, and believe me, I had a blast. And I think anyone who watched me play would say that. Sometimes maybe a little too much. But what I'm most proud of and what I think about most has nothing to do with statistics, although who would have ever thought that a young man from Kiln, Mississippi, whose father ran the Wishbone would hold every passing record in NFL history at one time? Pretty doggone amazing if you ask me.
“But that's not what makes me most proud. What makes me most proud is how I played the game and being real, authentic and spontaneous, and loving the game to me is what it was all about. I couldn't believe that they paid us and that I was racking up statistics like I was. I was just having fun. I'm most proud of that.
“So when I look back over my 20 years, I can honestly tell you -- I can't tell you a lot, but I can honestly tell you that I hold no regrets. Did we win every game? No. Did I make every throw? No. Did I make mistakes? More than I care to count. But I can say this: There was never one time where I did not give it all I could.
“I've said this to my daughters, and I'll say it to any young person out there who is playing sports: Don't ever look back and regret not doing your best. Don't ever look back, because there are no second chances. When you're 25 and you wish you would have done something in high school, it's too late. Don't cheat yourself. Don't cheat your teammates. Work as hard as you possibly can. Lay it all on the line, and whatever happens, happens. But you won't look back in regret.
“I don't regret anything. It's not to say I was perfect. I don't regret anything, and that's what I'm most proud of. And I say thank you again.”