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The Life

December 26, 2002
"It's Like Being the President ...
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Or the CEO of some big company.

You're judged on production, sure. Week to week, you're still the guy with the ball in your hand. You're the quarterback, the guy who's got to make the plays. But what a quarterback does on the field is only one small piece of his pie. Like the President or a CEO, you've got to be prepared to put on a lot of different hats.

If you say the wrong things to the media, if you're not fan friendly, if you're a bad locker room guy, if you're a guy who has an "all about me" attitude -- any one of those things will ruin you as a quarterback in this league, regardless of how good you are on the field. Being a great player is not enough for an NFL QB.

Brett Favre
There's nothing like being on top in Green Bay, just ask Brett Favre.
That alone tells you how difficult the position is. You've got to do all the off-the-field things as well. Got to be the politician, shaking hands, patting guys on the back. Got to make your coaches trust you. Got to make your teammates believe in you. And then, on Sunday, you've got to stand in the huddle and make 10 guys buy every word you say. And finally, you've got to be a producer, a playmaker and a leader. You've got to be conscious, not only of X's and O's, but of everything else. The media. The fans. You can't just say, "Screw y'all." Can't be selfish.

It's different for other positions. A selfish wide receiver? You deal with that. I don't want to bad- mouth Terrell Owens. He's by far the best receiver in the league. But he has this tendency to say and do things that get under people's skin. He even gets under the skin of his own teammates. So what? He catches balls and scores touchdowns.

But, I'm telling you, if he was a quarterback, that stuff wouldn't fly. That's why you don't see quarterbacks acting like that. Because they know if they do, they'll be gone.

When people talk about my consecutive-game streak [171 and counting], they always make a big deal about how durable I've been. To me, the bigger deal is that for 10 years I've been able to handle all the things that go along with this job, and to do them so well that the Packers have never felt the need to replace me. For 10 years, the coaches and the players on this team have believed in my ability and leadership.

That, right there, is no easy feat.

Someone else could probably describe my leadership style better, but I think it's all action and very few words. When I say "action," that means practices, meetings and, of course, games. When it comes to giving inspirational speeches, I clam up. That's just not me. I just feel like the only way to lead is to do things right. Practice with game intensity. Pay attention and get something out of meetings. And when games come around, you play your hardest, lay it all on the line.

Yeah, quarterbacks are a prized part of the team. You lose one to injury, and it's big trouble. But if you treat it that way, if you act like you're special, you won't get the respect you need from your teammates to play the position well. If you go out there and play the game balls-out, the other guys will see it. That's what the game's all about. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win. That's basically it. It's really simple. On the surface it's simple anyway.

Beneath the surface, it's not simple at all. Look at all the teams making quarterback changes every year. Look at the Patriots last year. Tom Brady takes over for Drew Bledsoe and suddenly everything clicks. Brady, with no experience at all in the league, takes over for a guy who was -- and still is -- one of the best in the game. And, for whatever reason, it becomes Brady's team.

Unless you were on the inside, there's no way you can know for sure how that situation evolved. But you've got to believe the coaches sensed the team was rallying around Brady. The same way Baltimore rallied around Trent Dilfer in 2000. The way St. Louis rallied around Kurt Warner in 1999. Show me a Super Bowl champion and I'll show you a team that believed in its quarterback. And as you can see, it's not only guys with an arm like John Elway or legs like Michael Vick. It's the guy who can make the team believe it's going to win the game. So, yeah, I know it's riding on my shoulders here in Green Bay.

I don't know if you realize, in the moment, that you're becoming a leader, but as I get older and look back, I can remember I was always the guy drawing up the plays in the dirt when I was a kid. And that's where I felt most comfortable. In the classroom, I was a follower. But on the field, I was always a leader. I was good at something, and I wanted everyone to know it. As a kid, you don't know you're bragging or showing off. You learn about that when you get older. But looking back, that's probably the reason I'm a leader. I liked showing off in front of my friends. And after you've done it a few times, it becomes expected of you. It falls into place.

I don't know the particular game when it clicked. I don't know what particular play or what particular time. But there did come a time when I knew I could just be myself. Not that I can show off at this level. This ain't the playground. But after I played a few good games, the guys around here, who'd done nothing but lose, could sense that I could help change that. I could sense the troops were rallying around me. I knew I'd suffer some ups and downs along the way, but I felt like I could do this for a long time. And I have.

There have been some rough times when I wondered if the coaches were losing patience with me. And there have been some times when I sensed the fans were thinking I should sit out. But I've never felt like I was losing the respect of the guys on the team. I still stand in that huddle and see 10 guys nodding their heads, buying into what I'm saying. I see 10 guys who still believe I can be a producer, a playmaker and, most of all, their leader.

This article appears in the January 6 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

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