GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The photo still hangs in Ron Wolf’s den, amid football memorabilia and family photos -- which, when you think about it, is the perfect place for it.
Years ago, before Wolf retired in 2001 after a decade of transforming the Green Bay Packers as the team’s general manager, Brett Favre signed an 8-by-10-inch photo of the two of them. For the Packers legendary quarterback, it was his version of a thank-you note for the February 1992 trade that brought him to Green Bay. On it, Favre wrote:
Thanks for giving this old redneck a chance in the Frozen Tundra.
Your other son,
Already a father of five, including sons Jonathan and Eliot, Wolf grew silent when asked -- in the days before Favre’s election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday -- what the inscription means to him now.
“Would I consider him a son?” Wolf finally said after a long pause, during a telephone interview from his winter home in Jupiter, Florida, earlier this week. “I’ll tell you this: I certainly admire everything that he ever did. I certainly am proud of everything he has accomplished. And I would back him no matter what -- any place, any time."
“So," Wolf said, pausing again, "I’d be proud to consider him a son.”
Now, Favre has joined Wolf in another family: The gold-jacketed Pro Football Hall of Fame fraternity.
Favre was announced Saturday as a member 2016 class, selected in his first year of eligibility. He’ll officially join Wolf, who was enshrined last year, in the Hall at the annual induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, in August.
And to hear each of them tell it, neither of them would be there without “The Trade,” in which Wolf gave up one of the Packers’ first-round draft picks to acquire the Atlanta Falcons’ hard-partying third-string QB.
“There’s no question he’s the reason I’m in the Hall of Fame,” Wolf said.
As Favre explained in an interview, “He made one of the riskier moves from a GM perspective, really, for all-time. Giving up a first-round pick for a second-round pick who didn’t even play? [But] Ron had a hunch, and I think sometimes your hunches are better than all the proof."
“Had I stayed in Atlanta," Favre continued, "things would have had to go a lot differently in the next few years, because I was at a point where I had sort of given up because of the situation. I felt stuck. [Falcons coach] Jerry [Glanville] didn’t like me. I walked past players and no one even knew who I was. So I had a huge mountain to climb, and I just don’t know if time would have allowed for that to happen. And then you fall through the cracks; it happens all the time.
“But the great thing about Atlanta is, it got me to Green Bay. That one lost year was one of the greatest years of my career, because it got me to Green Bay. And the rest is history. It was a perfect fit. Mike Holmgren was the perfect head coach, ‘Mooch’ [Steve Mariucci] was the perfect [quarterbacks] coach for me. I mean, it just all fell into place. I think I related to the fans there more than I would have anywhere else. It could not have happened any better.”
And it almost didn’t happen. Wolf actually had been hoping to pick Favre in the second round of the 1991 NFL draft with the 34th overall selection while working for the New York Jets, but the Falcons took him one pick earlier. Then, in Green Bay, Wolf had to convince the old fuddy-duddies on the team’s board of directors -- some of the same men who had presided over the club’s descent into irrelevance -- that he wasn’t crazy to give up such a high pick for a player they’d never heard of.
"Those guys on the committee, they were a little gun-shy, I would imagine," Wolf remembered. "I mean, they were going to the country club all the time and all they'd hear were people bitching and moaning how bad the Packers were. And now I was trading a 'one' for a guy named Brett Favre."
"Some people have told me," he continued, "'You know, Wolf, all the years you were in that game, eventually you were going to get one right.' But I believed in him. And that was my selling point to the committee -- who he was, what he was going to represent. I told them, 'We trade for this guy, and everything will change.' And by god, that's what happened."