By Tim Gutowski Published Nov 09, 2004 at 5:23 AM

{image1} It's easy to forget that even NFL superstars have mothers. And nobody knows what makes a star tick quite like the woman who raised him.

In Brett Favre's case, that mother is Bonita Favre. Through the untimely deaths of Brett's father Irvin and his brother-in-law Casey, and the recent breast cancer diagnosis of his wife Deanna, Packers fans know nearly as much about Brett's real family as they do his one in Green Bay. Brett and Bonita talk about both those families in a new autobiography entitled "Favre," published by Rugged Land last month.

In the book, Brett and his closest family members (including Irv, Bonita and Deanna) talk about his career, his famous toughness, his charitable work and the incredible Monday night game in Oakland last December. A great coffee-table gift for any Packers fan, "Favre" comes with a 45-minute NFL Films DVD that tracks Brett's life and career. The book also features contributions from Terry Bradshaw, Mark Bowden and Peter King.

We talked with Mrs. Favre by phone from Mississippi earlier this month. She will be promoting the book in the Milwaukee area Nov. 15, 16 and 17; see the end of the interview for details.

OMC: Tell us what it's like to be the mother of an NFL superstar like Brett Favre.

BF: To watch him play is exciting, even as a mother. But it's also scary because you're afraid of him getting hurt. But he's so unpredictable, and he's just a pleasure to watch. I sit and watch the DVD from the book over and over. It's about 45 minutes, and it starts with Brett as a youngster, and then through high school, college and the pros. (It has) a lot of his funny antics that he carries on. It's very enjoyable and, just like the book, it's something good for the young and the old. It's entertaining for all. My 3-year-old grandson watches the DVD over and over. He's a big Uncle Brett fan.

OMC: What are some of your favorite memories of Brett's playing career?

BF: In high school, probably the Long Beach game where he won it in the last two seconds, which he's become known to do. In college, it was probably the Louisville game, where he threw a Hail Mary pass and it got tipped and tipped and tipped and fell to one of our receivers and we won (the play appears on the DVD). The whole place just went crazy. Of course in the pros, I'd have to go with the Raiders game, considering the circumstances. I felt he would either play good or bad, I didn't think he'd play down the middle. But I did not expect what happened. The family laughed a while and we cried a while.

OMC: I think all football fans were amazed by that game.

BF: Even the Raiders (fans) were such great fans. They have such a reputation, but not that night. They were just great. ... It was just an awesome game all the way around.

OMC: How has Brett evolved since he was taken by Atlanta in the 1991 NFL Draft?

BF: Brett is fortunate enough to have always been in the right place at the right time. Of course he's always been prepared, too. And I think that getting traded to Green Bay was the best thing that could have happened to him, and I'm sure he'll tell you that, too. Atlanta wasn't big enough for him and Jerry (Glanville, coach of the Falcons at that time) both.

Brett is a country boy. He would not have fit well in the big city. When he was in New York with Deanna last week, he called and said "I hate this traffic." So I just could not even picture him in the big city. It was the greatest thing for Green Bay and Brett. It's just like a glove that fits perfectly.

OMC: In the book you mention that you get a lot of Green Bay and Wisconsin visitors to your restaurant (in Kiln, Miss., Brett's hometown). Have you had an opportunity to get to know some Packers fans?

BF: Oh, yeah. They're great, unbelievable. We had four in there Sunday watching the game (against Washington), and they said they just drove to come to the restaurant. And we had a group of young men that are training at Camp Shelby -- from Wisconsin and waiting to be deployed -- we had six this week and last week there were five. And there were several more people from Wisconsin. In fact, there were more Wisconsin people in the restaurant than Mississippians.

OMC: So people are actually making the trip down there?

BF: That's what this group of four told us. They came just to go to "Favre's on the Bayou." The first page of the book (a guest book page filled with names and addresses from Wisconsin) is from our restaurant.

I think the Packers fans are the most remarkable fans around. I've been to a lot of stadiums and seen a lot of fans, but these people are just awesome. They love their Packers. I compare Green Bay to Hattiesburg, where Brett went to college. Hattiesburg without Southern Miss would be like Green Bay without the Packers. The people up there are just like us down here, just down-home friendly.

OMC: Do you have the Packers on every Sunday at the restaurant?

BF: Yes. Of course, we have the Saints on too. What makes everyone mad here is the Saints are on at the same time as the Packers, and the Packers aren't on regular TV. We have DirecTV at the restaurant, so we get them. But my mother doesn't like to go there because it's too noisy and she can't hear. She gets mad at the Saints.

OMC: The book has essays by your husband (Irv), you and Deanna (Brett's wife). It's obvious that family is very important to Brett and to the whole clan.

BF: Yes, it is important to all of us, because it takes all of us to help each other out. We stick close together. It's like with Deanna's situation (Brett's wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer)... it's going to be a long road and we're all going to have to pitch in. When she starts treatments, she's going to be sick, and the other children are going to need to be taken care of. So we know that we all have to do what we have to do. It's like my husband said, when you lost a game, that game was over. Forget it and move on to the next one. And life is like that. You can't just give up. We have been through so much, and this year has been really hard. But you can't just fold in. You have to have a lot of faith in God, and strength, and continue on.

OMC: It's obvious that Brett has a very strong support structure in place.

BF: It's like the night of the (Raiders) game, Coach Sherman had called and said "If you need him at home, whatever you want, we'll do." But his dad would have had it no other way. What could Brett do at home? Sit here? So he was where he needed to be. His dad put that in him that, like I said, if you lose, it's behind you and you work on the next thing. That's basically life. I guess you can look at life as a game. You just do what you have to do. The Lord has blessed us in many ways, so you take the good with the bad.

OMC: Do you think Brett is more like you or more like his father?

BF: He's probably got both of us. He's hardheaded like his dad, though Irv's not here to defend himself. He's got some assets from both of us and some bad points, too. Brett just has a very strong determination, always has. Don't tell him he can't do something because then he's going to tell you he will.

OMC: A major subject of inquiry here in Wisconsin, of course, is Brett's eventual retirement. Is that something Brett talks about, or is it just a question that the media likes to ask?

BF: I tell people when they ask me, Brett is the only one who knows when he's ready to retire. When his body can't go anymore or he's not having fun, then he'll know. Like the latest thing with Deanna's illness, that's the first thing they ask, "Will this make him retire?" That's only something Brett knows.

OMC: He looks like the same quarterback to me that he's been the whole way through.

BF: It's like an outlet for him. When he's on that field, he's got one thing on his mind. Worries don't go away, but for the three hours you're on the field, you're playing ball. That's what you're there for. And you know Brett -- he goes on that field every time to win. He always has the attitude that he's going to win the game, it doesn't matter who they're playing. And he's won a lot of big ones like that. In college, he beat Auburn, Florida State, Alabama. He played the big boys.

OMC: What are Brett's offseasons like down there?

BF: Busy, as usual. It seems like things never stop. He stays outside, he's got a lot of land. And he loves cutting his grass and weed-eating ... It's funny, he just really likes working in his yard. He got that from his dad. His dad was like that, too. Now I'm trying to learn it.

It was really funny, on the last day of Breleigh's (Brett's youngest daughter) little school last year they were doing a scrapbook, and they asked her what her dad does. And she said "He sprays trees." Because she gets in the gator with him and they drive around ... so he doesn't play football, he sprays trees.

OMC: The book also talks about Brett's interest in special education and his charitable work. Tell us a little bit about that.

BF: I taught special education, and Deanna was actually a student aid for me, which might explain why Brett was hanging around my class a lot. He just took up with these children. This was a long time ago when people would pick on special ed kids. But (my) kids stood up for the special ed students, and I'd take them on field trips everywhere. My mother, my sister, my sister-in-law, all these people would go with me as chaperones. And for Special Olympics, Brett was right out there, and all my kids, with my special ed students.

We had one that's mentioned in the book that was a batboy for Irv in summer league, Ronnie Hebert, and Brett would room with him. So he and Scott (Brett's brother) both majored in special ed in college. Scott taught it in Atlanta when Brett was there that year, he lived with Brett.

These kids grow on you, and Brett has a soft heart. In fact when Deanna surprised Brett and brought Ronnie up to the dinner (Brett's 2002 foundation dinner in Green Bay, a story related in the book), by the end everyone was about to cry.

His charity work does a lot for underprivileged children. They do the Boys & Girls Club, they do Hope Haven, which is for abused women and children, they do an equestrian place (Gaits to Success), so that the children can ride horses, Special Olympics. So they do a lot. They've given over a million dollars to charity. And money raised here goes to Mississippi charities, and money up there goes to Wisconsin.

People don't always hear about the good things, they want to talk about the bad things. That's another thing we've had to learn to live with, is that there's nothing private in your life. There are a lot of women out there with breast cancer, but people don't know it as they do with us. Anything that happens in our life is very public.

OMC: I'm sure that's difficult.

BF: That's just another thing you have to cope with, and people have been -- like when Irv died, they sent donations from all over to the church children's fund. With Casey (Brett's brother-in-law, who was killed in an ATV accident last month), they received donations to the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation. So from every bad thing, we have learned, there is usually some good. And that's the best way to look at it.

OMC: What are you most proud of with Brett?

BF: That's a really hard one. I'm proud of him as a son, I'm proud of him as a father. One thing that I really notice on the field is that he is a leader, he never seems to point the blame at anyone. I've lived with the person many years and all my boys have played, and a lot of times they've run wrong routes or something that wasn't Brett's fault, but you'll never see him say that. He'll say "I lost it." And I think they respect him for that. He's just a born leader. Of course, he's got a lot of fun and clown in him, but they probably like that, too. You'll see that in the DVD. He's always been one to be a prankster.

Bonita Favre appears Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble Mayfair; Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Brookfield, 17145 W. Bluemound Rd. and Nov. 17 at noon at The Little Read Book, Wauwatosa, 7603 W. State St. She will also be in Appleton and Green Bay on Nov. 12 and 13. Rugged Land's Web site is

Sports shots columnist Tim Gutowski was born in a hospital in West Allis and his sporting heart never really left. He grew up in a tiny town 30 miles west of the city named Genesee and was in attendance at County Stadium the day the Brewers clinched the 1981 second-half AL East crown. I bet you can't say that.

Though Tim moved away from Wisconsin (to Iowa and eventually the suburbs of Chicago) as a 10-year-old, he eventually found his way back to Milwaukee. He remembers fondly the pre-Web days of listenting to static-filled Brewers games on AM 620 and crying after repeated Bears' victories over the Packers.