49ers QB Alex Smith has been an unqualified bust as a No. 1 overall draft pick, but he is financially secure – thanks to a monstrous rookie contract. Former Raider JaMarcus Russell, taken first in the 2007 draft – ahead of Pro Bowlers Adrian Peterson, Joe Thomas, Calvin Johnson, LaRon Landry and Patrick Willis – still has millions of dollars to purchase "Purple Drank" if he so chooses, despite likely never taking another snap in the NFL during his lifetime..
In the current era of the NFL, money has been thrown out and made unproven talents into high-risk investments. Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford are among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL and have yet to prove they can lead their teams to the postseason. The success stories in the NFL don't always seem to match the flops. Players who have been in the league for a handful of years get contracts that eventually become their own undoing.
Very few players retire on their own terms. The vast majority of players, who have chased their dream of being professional football players since middle school, see their careers end because the team that was paying them made the financial decision to cut them loose. As skills diminish, most decade-long veterans price themselves out of the NFL.
Brett Favre has never been a member of either of those factions. Perhaps no player in recent NFL history has carved a more significant folklore-style legacy than Favre.
He is in the select company of players who were as big as the game itself. The last quarterback to get his name mentioned among the best to ever play the game prior to Favre was John Elway, who was a Super Bowl loser until late in his career, and Favre helped bridge the gap between the "old school" NFL and the present day. There was a time in Favre's ascent that there were a lot of very good quarterbacks. Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon are all Hall of Fame quarterbacks, but none of would eclipse Favre in terms of their contribution to the game of pro football.
What put Favre in that stratosphere of the immortals is that he achieved legend status during his own era – a true rarity in the game. By the time a player is recognized as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, their careers are done or in deep decline. Favre, Colts QB Peyton Manning and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis are three of the precious exceptions to that longstanding rule. Manning has become a marketing icon. Lewis, thanks to an off-field shooting incident, has never become a media darling. Favre was marketed as an "everyman" character before the Jenn Sterger allegations came forward, and that's when Favre became poisonous as a product spokesman.
One has to keep in mind that Favre was "old school" before he was old. When he started playing in the NFL, the league and players were fighting their way through the court system to determine whether free agency would be allowed in the NFL. Any endorsement deal was viewed as a plus – bonus money that served as a testament that a player was recognized as a marketable commodity. Favre has done numerous such deals, from national media ad campaigns to local deals in Mississippi and Wisconsin. Favre never met a chance to make some extra cash that he didn't like. He did a ton of endorsement deals early in his career and those morphed into national deals. Even though he is retired (really, he is this time), his Wrangler commercials still run more than any other spots featuring current NFL players.
Retirement has ended his playing career, but it hasn't stopped Brett from making a buck. A lot of bucks. He has become the face of XRP Energy – a product, by its own admission, that is similar in style and form to ingesting a Pixie Stix. Figures have not been released as to how much XRP (which stands for Extended Release Performance) has committed to Favre to be its spokesman, but one can only assume it is a six-figure-minimum annual deal. Favre may have come cheap at one time, but this is 2011 and, if XRP wants to carve its niche, it has to pay extended money.
Some may view such a deal as small potatoes, given Favre's price tag to play football, but it highlights how different the NFL has become in the span of time from when Favre was a fresh-faced rookie until Rep. Anthony Weiner replaced Favre as the biggest casualty of using the photo option on a cell phone.
It's unlikely Favre will significantly change XRP's role in the energy-supplement market, but his endorsement deal is a sign of one thing – Favre is loyal. Whether it is loyalty to a childhood friend or that Favre is a not-so-silent partner in the XRP endeavor, if you want to contact the company, it's located at 1 Willow Bend Drive (at one end of the street) in Hattiesburg, Miss.
For the bad some will say about Favre, one thing they can't say is that he doesn't keep working. The NFL has changed immeasurably from the time he joined the league to the time he left. When he started playing pro football, many players had second jobs in preparation for a post-football career. The money he got the last two seasons (10 months if you actually break it down into time spent in Minnesota) likely set up his grandchildren for life. Yet, he's willing to endorse a product that, by its own directions, instructs buyers to "Tear across the flat part of the end of the stick pack, which will reveal an opening. Pour the contents of the stick pack on the tongue and swallow. Do not chew the powder as it will release some of the encapsulated caffeine and potentially give you a bitter taste."
According to its website, it has only "4 calories." I'd like the FDA to check that out, while it makes sure that it isn't the next StarCaps.
Ten years from now, you won't see Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Adrian Peterson endorsing products like XRP Energy. They won't have to. They will have earned enough to say "no." Favre remains old school. He was one of the last vestiges of the pre-free agent era of the NFL, but remains a testament to the past era of the NFL – where any endorsement deal was viewed as a good thing.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.