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A teen's dream: High schoolers enjoying summer workouts with Favre

HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Micah Williams doesn't show up to summer workouts at Oak Grove High School without gloves.

Thanks to the fourth guy in the quarterback rotation -- the tall one with the gray beard -- they're required gear.

"He's still throwing like he used to," Williams said. "Still with the zip. Hard. If you don't wear gloves, your hands are going to be through."

The senior wide receiver is talking about his summertime teammate, Brett Favre. Yeah, that Brett Favre. The 39-year-old retired quarterback, Super Bowl winner and three-time NFL MVP.

Anyone who thinks Favre is adrift without a team as he contemplates a return for a 19th NFL season, this time with the Minnesota Vikings, is very wrong. Favre has everything he needs right here at Oak Grove High, where coach Nevil Barr agreed to let him join in team workouts five summers ago while the quarterback was still with the Green Bay Packers.

"It's hard to run 110s on your own," Favre said Wednesday morning after a session under a sweltering sun. "It's hard to run stadiums on your own. I can remember pulling tires out here. That's very hard to do on your own. So I was at a point in my career I felt like I needed some motivation, someone to kind of kick me into gear. So I came out."

He has been having a great time since. An endless supply of hands are waiting to be graced with a pass from a guy who has started in the Pro Bowl and made a yearly ritual of keeping the football world uncertain about whether he'll play again or not.

Then there's the camaraderie -- joking around and just hanging out.

And there's a common goal: to be ready to give it all this season.

"He's got a good sense of humor," Oak Grove junior quarterback John Mark said of Favre. "He's a laid-back guy. He's just like one of us. He's out there having a good time."

Favre doesn't hog valuable practice time. Instead, he takes his turn in the rotation, throwing to any receiver in the group, from savvy seniors who love to run under one of his deep end-zone passes to the new guys who are making their way up from the junior-varsity squad.

Favre usually takes pity on the little guys.

"With the small ones, you've got to learn to take a little bit off when you throw it," he said. "(So far) I haven't had a parent call me and say, 'Are you trying to kill my son?'"

Favre joined the team after classmates of his daughter asked "Mr. Brett" -- "which is weird," he says -- to come work out. He immediately liked it. Now there are few star-struck moments out on the field, though the occasional visiting camera or journalist can cause a stir.

Most days, though, there have been no pictures this summer, just Favre -- workout after workout. He has missed just one since he was cleared to start throwing. He jokes with the Oak Grove players, gives tips on footwork and preaches the importance of a quarterback's eyes.

"Our kids are used to it, as strange as it seems," Barr said of Favre's workouts. "They love it. Believe me, they know who he is and what he's done, but they feel comfortable around him."

As you might imagine, Oak Grove players often use the words "awesome" to describe the experience of playing with Favre and "cool" to describe the man.

Like this, from sophomore quarterback Steven Papas: "It's pretty awesome. It's not, like, every day you get to talk to a Hall of Famer pretty much. And I mean he's cool. It's cool just being around him."

Barr believes Favre's willingness to sweat alongside the players as they work toward a shared goal has improved his football team, which has made it to the state semifinals five of the last six seasons and is expected to contend in Class 5A again this season. Oak Grove players turn out by the dozens to work out three days per week.

"I'm a part of this team," Favre said. "And as much as Nevil says it helps these kids, it probably has helped me equally, if not more, than it's helped those kids. When I was 17, 18, I was just happy to be wherever. You don't want to get up and work out, but you do it. Me, I really don't want to get up and work out. So coming up here kind of keeps you young."

Young enough to play another season? Oak Grove's players think so. Though none has the eye or experience of an NFL coach, some of the Warriors have watched and practiced with Favre for four or five years now and see no reason why he won't be in a Vikings uniform. The proof is in the sting of leather on bare flesh.

"Brett, he comes with extra," Williams said. "You've got to have your eyes on it before it even gets there, because if you have your head turned the other way -- pfft! -- it'll hit you."

Of course, whether Favre will wear purple this year or sit in the club seats in Oak Grove's palatial stadium is up to the quarterback himself. Favre says he will make a decision by the July 30 start of Vikings training camp.

He hasn't tipped his hand to his Oak Grove teammates.

"He's been with us all summer," Williams said. "I was thinking he'd at least give us a hint or something."

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