Friends, family see Favre wearing purple

KILN, MISS. -- Brett Favre's brother Jeff stopped at a horse show on Thursday to visit family friend Steve Haas, right after Haas heard that the town's favorite son had decided not to end his months-old retirement to play for the Minnesota Vikings.

Favre's hometown
Many fans of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre have traveled to Kiln, Miss., to visit Favre's hometown. Friends and family of the quarterback who live in the area say they wouldn't be surprised if he decides to play for the Minnesota Vikings. (Tim Isbell / McClatchy Newspapers)

KILN, MISS. -- Brett Favre's brother Jeff stopped at a horse show on Thursday to visit family friend Steve Haas, right after Haas heard that the town's favorite son had decided not to end his months-old retirement to play for the Minnesota Vikings.

"I told Jeff, 'I guess we're not going to watch the Vikings play in Lambeau Field this year,' " Haas said. "Jeff just said, 'Oh, it's early yet.'

"That's what I think, too. For Brett, it's early yet."

For Favre, it's never too late to change your mind about retiring. Last week, media reports indicated the future Hall of Fame quarterback and former Green Bay icon might sign with the Vikings, that head coach Brad Childress planned to fly to Mississippi to meet with him and, finally, that Favre had called off the meeting and confirmed, however temporarily, his football career is over.

The locals aren't buying it. Favre grew up in Kiln, then went to the University of Southern Mississippi and now lives on a ranch outside of Hattiesburg, Miss. This year, the city is celebrating 125 years of existence. It only seems Favre has been mulling retirement that long.


Spent physically and emotionally after the past few seasons, the NFL's most durable quarterback and persistent storyline has retreated to his 450-acre ranch and given his fans reason to think that the big "F" on his gate signifies "Flip-Flop."

"It would be a tough decision for anyone," said Favre's mother, Bonita. "It's also difficult when you love the game. After he's home for a while and starts realizing what's at stake and it starts getting time, the wheels start turning."

"You get mixed emotions around here," said Dolly Lee, owner of Dolly's, a gas station and gathering place down the street from the homes of some of Favre's relatives in Kiln.

"People think that what he's doing is crazy, but me, personally, I think he just wants to play football.

"Right now, people aren't really saying much. The closer it gets to football season, once he makes a decision, then all the regulars will start talking about it."

Spend a couple of days in Kiln and Hattiesburg, and you do not sense that Favre's reported decision to remain retired is final. Instead, the locals express fondness for their football hero and a desire to see him play again, even if a change of jerseys would require redecorating.

Haas owns the Broke Spoke, a small bar near Dolly's that has become something like Lourdes for Favre fans, especially those from Wisconsin. The bar's name is printed on a confederate flag over a shack that looks like it's held together by beer stickers. Bras hang from the ceiling, and the outhouse in the parking lot is painted green and gold and features the inscription: "Brett Thanks 4 The Memories."

When the Packers traded Favre to the Jets last year, Haas sold green-and-white T-shirts. "If he plays for Minnesota, I'd have purple Broke Spoke T-shirts, I know that," he said. "We'd put a few Minnesota things in the bar, but I wouldn't paint over anything that was green and gold."


Several streets are named for one Favre or another in Kiln, and a statue of the quarterback graces the high school field. The north wall of Dolly's features a mural of a large Packers helmet.

Hattiesburg is known for its longleaf pines and its long-pining quarterback. If Hamlet lived in Mississippi and could throw a pigskin through a rolling tire, he'd probably act a lot like Brett Favre, football's tortured prince.

Favre's friend J.D. Simpson says only the quality of the Vikings roster has kept Favre's meandering through the maze of possibilities. "If this had been a year ago, bang, he'd be in Minnesota right now," Simpson said. "I think this decision is tougher for him than any of them. He really sees Minnesota as a legitimate team that can go all the way. I think in his mind he was retired, but the quality of that team makes this a tough one."

Simpson acts as team chaplain for Oak Grove High School, where Favre works with the football team to stay in shape. Simpson warmed up with Favre on Monday before Favre threw to the team's receivers. "I didn't have a helmet on," Simpson said. "I wish I had. I help out with the receivers, and he threw a few that bounced off some facemasks out there."

In the national media, Favre often is depicted as a prima donna. Here, he's known as a star who can blend into the crowd at a high school football practice or a local restaurant.

"He takes his daughter to school every morning," said John Cox, the longtime radio broadcaster for Southern Miss, and an old friend. "I think he can move around Hattiesburg unnoticed probably more so than anywhere else. He's been here since 1987, so people don't make a big deal out of it."

While a nation of football fans agonizes over Favre's decision, Mississippians sound happy there's still a chance he will play.

"Shoot, I think it's an addiction," Haas said. "He knows when he's done, he's done. Heck, I saw him play in the fifth grade. He's been at it so long, he just don't want to turn it loose."


Simpson's conversations with Favre have left him similarly undecided.

"If I was a betting man ... well, I'm not, and I don't know how I'd bet anyway," Simpson said. "I'll see that gleam in his eye, and then he'll say how much he likes retirement.

"If he doesn't play, we'll be happy to have him around. If he does play, we'll go buy purple."

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