Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before their preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on August 22, 2010 in San Francisco, California.
Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
It's the next morning. A black wrought-iron fence with a regal letter F opens, and a car makes its way up a winding driveway past idle tractors and a guesthouse before coming to the main home. Brett Favre's 11-year-old daughter, Breleigh, pokes her head outside. She points into the woods. "My daddy's out there somewhere," she says. 

Daddy pulls up a minute later. He looks like a goddamned Wrangler ad. He's in a Jeep, still unshaven, and trailed by his chocolate Lab, Sam. There are morning chores to do. He drives the 465-acre perimeter.

"We got our land for about equal to what Bus paid for his land," says Favre, shifting into a lower gear as he rolls through mud. "He has a beautiful place. A lot of the stuff I've done out here has been after I've seen it at his place. He's a manicurist."

Brett slows and points at a trap. "See over there? I trapped a coyote. They keep digging under my fence. Usually, I just shoot them once they're trapped, but somebody wanted a live one – this guy who's training dogs to run coyotes."

Favre wants to show me something else. Bus has bamboo on his property, and Favre thought it would look good lining his fence as well. He bought some but planted it wrong. "I thought it was just like a tree," he says, laughing at his own idiocy. "There are a lot of times when I don't know what the hell I'm doing. But Bus told me, 'Just pull up the roots. Don't worry about the stalk; find the root.' It's like a vine; you just pull it out and throw dirt over it. See over there? It's coming up nice."

We drive some more, past a wild hog's hole, past dead trees ripped down by Katrina, Sam trotting ahead.

"Every year it becomes harder to leave this place," says Favre. "If you told me when I was younger I'd be into weed-eating, fixing fences, I'd have said, 'Screw that.' But I love it."

It's not an exaggeration to say the property turned Favre from a boy into a man. It was here that he stopped drinking back in 1999. "I thought I didn't have a problem because I wasn't doing it all the time," he explains. "But I'd go on two-day vodka-drinking binges. Finally, I just knew it was time to quit. AA works for some people, but if I need to rely on calling someone else at 3 am, then I'm screwed. Some people just know when it's time and say, 'I'm done.' That was me."

We come into a clearing where there's a large guesthouse and a big barn. The grass is manicured, Bus-quality. Favre goes quiet and stops the Jeep by two well-maintained benches. Back in 2004 Favre's brother-in-law Casey was staying on the farm while on a break from his oil-rig job. One afternoon, Casey tried to ride Brett's ATV through a gravel pile, flipped the vehicle, and suffered traumatic head injuries. A helicopter airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"I still feel guilty and think about what would have happened had I not had this place," says Favre. "You build a haven, a refuge where you feel safe and where everyone else feels safe, and if you want to go out and ride you should be safe. That obviously wasn't the case." He points at the two benches. "He was killed right here. His girlfriend was eight months pregnant."

Favre parks the Jeep in the barn. He waves to Johnny, a contractor who is hauling soil around the property. We grab Cokes out of a well-stocked fridge. He points at the guesthouse up on a hill where Deanna's mother and his stepfather-in-law, Rocky, used to live. Brett cracks a big smile.

"When I first met Rocky, he had a rat tail. He was an old biker, and he looked after the place for me. We didn't know what the hell we were doing. We'd break something and shrug and Rocky would say, 'All right, I'll fix it.' There might be some duct tape involved. I was as close to him as to my dad, maybe closer. I could tell him things I couldn't tell anyone. When I would leave every year, he would cry and I would cry. I loved him. Then he up and passed away. He was in his mid-50s, great shape, not an ounce of fat, going to the doctor regularly, doing everything right."

Favre angrily rubs at his eyes and squints into the morning sun. "I don't know, for a while it just seemed every time I left, something bad happened. My dad died during the season. Katrina hit. Casey. Rocky. And I was gone."

I ask him if one of the reasons he keeps playing is because the memories of the ones he has lost are all intertwined around football weekends and steak dinners late on Sunday evenings after his work was done.

"That's probably part of it," he admits, "but I think part of the reason I thought about stopping playing was just fear. I just hated the idea of walking away and people saying, 'He stayed too long.' I worked so hard, and I don't want people left with that."

He breaks into a shit-eating grin.

"Then last year happened. I mean, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions! Jesus!" For a moment, there's just pure joy on his face, amazement at what he has done. Then his brow creases and his brain wavers in real time. "But what are the odds that I have another season like that, even if I play real well?"

At this very moment, a TV crew is waiting outside of a Habitat for Humanity project in Hattiesburg, where Deanna is volunteering; they're hoping for some news. Favre cranks up the Jeep. "C'mon, Sam, let's go." He looks over at me. "So, with all that in my mind, I have no idea what I'm going to do this year."

And he laughs the saddest laugh I've ever heard.