HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Brett Favre lines up at the 40-yard line and takes off in a dead sprint, juking briefly to his right before heading left.
He turns and lifts his arms just before quarterback Kirk McCarty’s wobbly pass hits him in stride, right on the hands.
“Nice,” Favre said with a grin before firing a spiral back to McCarty. “A little ugly, but that will work.”
The three-time NFL Most Valuable Player made his living as one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. Now he serves as an assistant coach. Or receiver. Or the film editor. Or anything else he thinks needs to be done to make Oak Grove High School a better football team.
Favre is beginning his coaching career in humble surroundings – as the offensive coordinator of a 1,500-student high school near his home in south Mississippi. He receives no money for the job, but that doesn’t mean he’s taking in lightly.
“The stress is already getting to me,” Favre said, laughing. “I’ll wake up in the middle of the night saying, `Hey, maybe we can do this? Maybe that will work?'”
Favre has kept a low profile since retiring from the NFL in 2010. It’s been a stark contrast from his final few years in the league, which were filled with nearly constant on- and off-the-field drama. After a couple years to decompress, he’s emerged at Oak Grove, working under veteran high school coach Nevil Barr.
During his playing career, Favre would often work out at Oak Grove in the offseason, throwing passes to the receivers or lifting weights. Barr was always impressed with the way Favre interacted with the players, serving as a mentor even when he could have been aloof. So when Favre returned to Mississippi, Barr always kept in touch to see if the quarterback would be willing to join his staff.
This fall, the timing was right. And the 42-year-old was obviously having a good time Monday morning under the steamy July sun.
One moment he’d be firing passes to receivers. The next, poring over play charts with other assistants.
“What I like best is he’s enthusiastic,” Barr said. “He makes it fun. Football should be fun. Sometimes we forget that these kids play football because they enjoy it. Everybody knows he’s competitive and he likes to win, but the biggest thing is watching how he treats our kids. The way he teaches and his patience. It shocked me how patient he’s been.”
It’s a way for Favre to get back in the game without straying too far from home. His 13-year-old daughter is entering the eighth grade at Oak Grove and he’ll be able to see almost all of her volleyball games this season – though he may be diagraming a football play or two on a notepad while sitting in the stands.
Favre said he’s thought about getting into broadcasting or a higher level of coaching, but is content to wait until his daughter is out of high school.
“One of the reasons I retired in the first place was I wanted to be in one place and experience all these things with my family,” Favre said. “This year will be a trial basis (for coaching). I feel like I can help the kids, but I’m not promising we’ll win any more games. Shoot, we might not win one.”
Favre certainly didn’t inherit an easy situation. Though Oak Grove is a perennial power at the 6A level – Mississippi’s highest football classification – the Warriors return just one starter on offense. Some days, Favre feels like a rookie again.
“My experience in pro football means nothing,” Favre said. “Absolutely nothing here. It’s totally different. So our biggest learning curve as a team might be my learning curve.”
Favre said during these early days of training camp, he’ll lean on the other coaches to learn the terminology and scheme. But what he offers immediately is the real-world experience of dealing with people, directing a huddle and figuring out what can turn a good player into a better one.
Whether it’s Green Bay or Oak Grove, some things in football don’t change.
“I really believe I’m good at reading people,” Favre said. “From being in the huddle, being in the locker room and in all those meetings for all those years, I understand that some people learn this way and some learn another way. … My whole job is to try and keep things simple. The more you have to think, the less your talent can show.”