CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: PARRIS

HALLMAN THINKS HIS TOUGH EX-QB WILL BEAT VICODIN

Curley Hallman remembered exactly what he was doing when he heard the news, with much the same crystal memory invoked by JFK's assasination.

But this was different for Hallman, the former LSU football coach. He never had a personal relationship with JFK. Never played golf with JFK. JFK never played quarterback for him.

"I was at home watching TV and doing some recruiting paper work," said Hallman, now an assistant at Alabama. "I had the TV down low. One of my girls was with me. I told her to flip it up. That's when I heard the news. It shocked me. There was a numbness."

The news was that Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, the starter in each of Hallman's three seasons as head coach at Southern Mississippi and last year's NFL MVP, was entering a rehabilitation center to treat an addiction to Vicodin, a prescription drug. He made the announcement at a press conference May 14 in Green Bay. At 5 a.m. the next day Favre left for the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan.

Five operations in six years and other related injuries that come with the NFL territory had taken a toll on Favre. Feeling a pressure to stay on the field to keep his starting job, he turned to Vicodin. NFL players say use of the drug is widespread.

Only LSU athletic director Joe Dean was more responsible for getting Hallman to LSU than Favre. In 1990 USM finished 8-3 in the regular season. Two wins in particular at Alabama and at Auburn pushed Hallman into the coaching limelight.

A surprise starter in September against Alabama, Favre showed then an NFL toughness. Six weeks earlier he'd been involved in a serious car wreck from which internal problems had developed.

It was Hallman's decision to put Favre on the field in Birmingham that day, one he says was by the book.

In contrast to the NFL, Hallman says college players are held out of games quickly, that at times they're held out when they really could play. Favre's competitive spirit then was the exception and not the rule.

Obviously beating Alabama became a much more realistic goal with Favre taking snaps rather than his redshirt freshman backup.

"There was no pressure on me to play Brett Favre," Hallman said. "We thought he was ready to play. Our plan was to start him to give us a boost then get him out of there. But he got knocked around a little bit, and heck, he handled it.

"We evaluated and monitored Brett from the start," Hallman continued. "We were trying to get him ready not for the first or second game but the fourth or fifth. If he wasn't ready by mid-season it was time to talk about red-shirting him."

Hallman said Favre's constant hounding during the week of Alabama preparation did not influence the decision to play him.

Favre's practice routine began slowly in shorts and a helmet. By Thursday of Alabama week he was going full speed and picking up blitzes.

"I told him he had to be able to protect himself," Hallman said. "And if there was any doubt in my mind, he wasn't going to play. The health and safety of that young man was always No. 1 with me."

The Friday before the game Hallman made the decision to let Favre play. Favre's mere presence far outweighed his 116 total yards. He established himself as a battler, one who will do whatever it takes to win.

Favre is in a much different game now. Hallman thinks he will win again.

"I talked with him less than two weeks before that press conference trying to get him to come down for a benefit golf tournament," Hallman said. "Now I know all that was going on.

"It's obvious Brett handled this with a lot of thought. He'll handle this with the same competitive attitude and approach that he always has as a football player and an athlete."

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