Former Hancock North Central teammates of Brett Favre knew all about his strong arm during his high school days.
But with a strong running game, led by All-Coast halfback Charles Burton, Favre rarely got a chance to display his arm before college scouts.
“When we were in high school, we didn’t have that many pass plays and stuff like that,” Burton recalled. “We always had good backs like Stanley Jordan, Drew Malley, Delano Lewis, Donald Vince, Brett and myself. We never did have to do many passes.”
Burton, who now works for the Hancock County Schools Transportation Department and lives in Pearlington, was one of those running backs that overshadowed Favre during his high school career. Burton galloped for more than 900 yards as a junior in 1985 and then came back to rush for 1,031 yards and 20 touchdowns in 1986.
Favre, in fact, threw the ball only 97 times in 10 games as a junior in 1985, completing 40 for 723 yards and eight touchdowns.
Even if Hawks fans didn’t realize it at the time, Burton knew that Favre had the competitive fire to go a long way.
“If anybody, Brett should be where he’s at,” Burton said. “He’s a competitor. He was and is the type of guy that once he set his mind to it, he’d try to get it done.
“When we were in high school, he didn’t have to do that much. But when we’d run the Wing-T and Power-I in practice, he’d want to get it done and get it done right. He didn’t leave off the practice field with everybody until Coach (Irvin) Favre, Rocky (Gaudin) and Tim Favre were happy.”
Vincent Cuevas, a junior split end during Brett’s senior year, was the recipient of many of the few passes Brett threw.
“Brett was a year ahead of me and I ended up catching at least eight touchdown passes,” Cuevas said. “In high school, his dad got on him in practice. The pass would hit you and you couldn’t hardly catch it. His dad told him to take something off the ball. But that showed how much arm he had in high school.”
Favre’s arm strength wasn’t lost on the upperclassmen, either. Stanley Jordan, who is a chiropractor in Wiggins these days, was a halfback in the wishbone during Favre’s junior year. He graduated a year ahead of Brett.
“We always knew the potential was there because he had such a strong arm,” Jordan said. “He had an exceptionally strong arm. I feel like if we had thrown the ball then, we’d have been just as successful.”
Ironically, Jordan’s best memory of Favre on the field followed an interception in 1985 when Brett had to switch from offense to defense.
“My one big memory of Brett is that we were playing Stone High up here in Perkinston and he threw an interception,” Jordan said. “Brett looked like a heat-seeking guided missile. He tackled the guy and nearly killed the individual. He really had blood in his eyes.”
But there was one time when the Hawks had to ride Favre’s arm. It occurred on Oct. 17, 1986, when ninth-ranked Hancock North Central invaded Long Beach.
Favre marched the Hawks 59 yards in 11 plays and scored the winning touchdown in a 29-22 victory on a quarterback sneak with 28 seconds left.
Burton remembers that game quite well, especially since he watched the second half from the bench.
“The refs kicked me out the first play of the second half,” Burton said. “Brett walked up to me and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, Big Brother, we will win the game.’
“That’s the most passes I ever saw Brett throw in a game except in practice.”
Cuevas caught a 6-yard pass in the game, which gave Hancock a 14-0 lead at the time.
He later made a key run on the game-winning drive.
“That was one game we did go to our passing attack more than any other,” Cuevas said. “I caught more that game than out of all of them. It went down to the wire.”
The Hawks eventually reached No. 5 statewide in 1986 before a 21-19 upset at the hands of Bay High and finished No. 12 in the state in the final Associated Press poll.
Burton was named to the Burger King All-Coast team as a running back, while Favre was selected to the team as a defensive back.
The three players follow Brett’s career closely and are happy for his success.
Cuevas, who is a CNC computer operator for the Cuevas Machine Shop, said it was a thrill to think that he played with Brett at the beginning of his career.
“It’s a great honor to know I played with him,” Cuevas said. “A lot of people are jealous of him. But I know what kind of leadership he had in high school.
“It’s a great honor to say I used to catch passes from him in high school. I’m asked all the time about it. I love it.”
Burton, whose football career was waylaid by a knee injury at Pearl River Junior College, is equally complimentary.
“On the day we left high school, I told Brett I knew he could make it as a quarterback,” Burton said. “Brett was throwing the ball 50 and 60 yards in the ninth grade. I remember when we beat Pearl River with 35 seconds to go on a prayer. He can really throw a ball.”
Jordan, who opened his own chiropractic clinic in Wiggins after running one in Gulfport, has enjoyed the vicarious thrill of seeing a former teammate make it big.
“It makes me very, very proud I was part of the team he played with. In fact, it gives me chills to think about it. I’m glad I played with him and know him personally.”