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Favre's wife: Our family is stronger, closer now

Favre's wife: Our family is stronger, closer now

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By KATHERINE M. SKIBA Associated Press

GREEN BAY Five months into marriage, Deanna Lynn Favre seems to have it all: wealth, an NFL superstar for a husband, a big home.

But she wasnt born to the good life. Nor was the road to it short and simple.

In a rare interview, she discussed her working-class beginnings, roller-coaster romance, life as a single mom, her husbands battle with drug addiction and their emergence as a strong, close family.

She also disclosed that, a year ago, she was fully prepared to turn her back on life with Brett Favre unless he dealt with his addiction to a painkiller.

I had intentions of leaving in the off-season, and I was never going to look back unless he would admit the problem and do something about it, Deanna said. I did my best to make him realize there was a problem and to get him help, and if I had failed, then I dont know if we would have had anything worth saving.

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That all changed in the wake of the Packers 1995 season. Quarterback Brett Favre won the NFLs Most Valuable Player award but later announced he was hooked on the painkiller, Vicodin.

Treated for 46 days at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., Brett returned to win the MVP award again this season after leading the Packers to a 13-3 record and into the playoffs.

After emerging from the clinic June 28, he married his longtime girlfriend July 14 in a small wedding at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Green Bay. Their honeymoon, an overnight at the American Club in Kohler, was brief.

Their first full day as newlyweds saw Brett report to training camp.

Maybe thats not too surprising for a pair of former high school athletes who met under a basketball net in Pass Christian, Miss.

The boys and girls basketball teams from Hancock North Central High School were invited to a birthday party for Bretts older brother.

Deanna, who played guard for the girls varsity, recalls going outside and shooting baskets, alone, when Brett came out, kind of flirted, and took the ball way.

I was kind of shy, kind of embarrassed. I was ready to run. But I didnt have anyone to talk to, besides him, so we kind of hung out. He was kind of shy, too, then. We were only 14 years old, she said. The chemistry was there right away. We were both athletic and he was probably attracted to that.

After high school, they took different paths. He had a football scholarship and went on to glory at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She had a basketball scholarship to the two-year Pearl River Community College, in Poplarville, closer to home.

Her studies were disrupted when she found she was pregnant. It was 1988. She said the news, at first, was devastating. She was 19 and scared, more than anything.

She, like her husband, is Catholic. Ending the pregnancy was out of the question.

People talked to me about abortion, and there was no way. I was totally against it. And I look at her every day thanking God I was.

Brittany Nicole Favre now is a second-grader in a Green Bay parochial school.

Deanna said she and Brett had talked about getting married before the pregnancy but ruled it out since they were young. It didnt seem right, later, to wed just for the sake of it. She didnt want Brett resenting her, complaining, You made me get married.

The relationship became on-again, off-again.

There were times when we were broken up and we were seeing other people, but we still talked. He called Brittany every day regardless of our relationship, whether we were fighting or whatever. He called her every day.

Years as a single mother werent easy. Still, Deanna finished her college studies in 1993 at Southern Miss. Her degree is in exercise science.

The eldest of three children, she said she has been working since the 10th grade when she got a job at a campground, mowing lawns, cutting wood, scouring bathrooms and ringing up sales in a convenience store. Later she was a lifeguard, a waitress, and, reluctantly, a bill collector.

I never liked borrowing money or taking money, even from my parents. I just always worked. I worked my way through college as a single mother and I never asked Brett for any child support.

He took care of me my last year of school, but I wasnt getting paid a half-million dollars like I could have if I wanted to.

Brett, after a rookie season in Atlanta, was traded in 1992 to Green Bay, where his career took off.

Deanna said their relationship had just been dragging on, until they decided she and their daughter would join him in Green Bay in August 1995.

I always knew if the relationship didnt work out, we could always be friends. We just talked about it one night and said, Its time to make it or break it. We needed to either move in together and try to work it out, or we needed to break it off and go on with our lives.

It was kind of like a trial that first year, she said. Boy, was that a tough road.

Brett was having the best season of his career but relying more and more on painkillers.

I really started to worry about him around November of last year, Deanna said. I didnt know how bad it was right away. I didnt know how bad it was probably until January. And I started getting on his case then.

At the worst, she said, he never slept. He was up all night long. His behavior was different. He was wired.

It was like I was living a nightmare. I had no control over it, she said. While Brett still treated her and her daughter well, I felt like it was my fault I couldnt get through to him, she said.

But people have to realize, if they have a family member, or somebody going through that, it has to be up to them. They have to realize the problem, and they have to beat it.

Now he looks back and realizes what a problem it really was. It was life-threatening, she said. Im extremely proud of him. Hes worked very hard to get where he is.

When Brett entered drug rehab in May, Deanna first could visit a day or two each week. By the last two weeks, he was allowed to live in a hotel, with Deanna at his side.

In between, there were phone calls. soul-searching, planning. Brett talked about more children, about wedding rings, about a marriage license.

I never pushed the issue, ever. He brought it up. I think he was very appreciative of what he had, and he realized that I was here because I cared for him and not Brett Favre, NFL quarterback.

Since the marriage, Brett has matured and put his priorities in order, his wife said.

Weve always been best friends, I guess, but weve gotten a lot closer, she said. Now its like were locked in and we know were here for each other. Im not going anywhere. Hes not going anywhere.

In a way, I think everything happens for a reason. I think thats why he had his problem. It made us stronger. It made us closer as a family.

Deanna helps with the bookkeeping for three family enterprises: Favre Property Management (rental units), Favre Agriculture (Black Angus cattle on a ranch his father runs) and Favre Enterprises (TV commercials, endorsements, autograph signings, a sportswear line and so on).

They return to Mississippi after the season. They plan to live in Hattiesburg to let Deanna pursue a masters degree in nutrition at Southern Miss. Her aim is to be a registered dietitian.

Were excited about Bretts career and football and all, but now its time for me, she said. So Im setting goals of my own for 97.


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