Former NFL WR Derrick Mayes was a rookie with the Packers during the 1996 season, which culminated with Green Bay winning the Super Bowl. But Mayes, whose last year in the NFL was 2000, made a smooth transition into post-football life. These days, he speaks to high school athletes as part of the National Collegiate Scouting Association and heads the executive board for ex-Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz's foundation, among other projects. With a lockout looming, he spoke recently with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand about life outside of football and, of course, his time with Brett Favre.
Q I was curious, first off, with how did you arrive at all these projects and endeavors post-career -- because I sense that's something with which a lot of athletes struggle?
A There's a depth of going and transitioning into your "other self" -- it's not another career, it's another self. Coach Holtz always used to say that playing professional sports of any kind is like taking a hiatus from your life. And you had to come back to that life. I understood that at an early age, and that helped prepare me.
Q Did you sense even when you were playing that you were rare or that other athletes weren't as prepared as you were for the eventual end, whenever it came?
A I know that I was a percentage of a percentage that got it on the front end. By knowing that it was a hiatus of real life, you understand there is a time limit. No matter what length, there is an end point. ... And when I speak to young student-athletes about college, I tell them -- and this is a direct quote from Coach Holtz -- it's not a four-year decision, it's a 40-year decision. And you have to get it right.
Q What do you make of the labor situation right now?
A Everyone saw this coming, and that's the biggest problem I have. ... I remember Gene Upshaw [former director of the NFL Players' Association], God rest his soul, used to talk about the war chest and being prepared. And the reason he talked about it in those terms is he went through it in 1987, and it wasn't fun. It was real. I don't feel like it's the same case right now, this go-round.
Q What was it like jumping right into the league and winning a Super Bowl?
A It was great, and it also spoils you a little bit. ... I look at Brett and all the years he played and all the touchdowns -- it was awesome to know I was a part of that.
Q I have to ask you: Any great or specific Favre memories?
A (Laughs) Oh, so many. I remember more of the times that kind of went unnoticed, 1-on-1 time. We would sneak out and play golf at one of the country clubs in the afternoon when they had special teams practice during training camp. It was just the two of us out there, me and Brett. He would always say, "Make it dance. Come on, Sugarbear, make it dance." Everybody on the team called me Sugarbear for some reason.
Q What did "make it dance" mean?
A It was for approach shots. Brett loved to get the ball to spin. His hands were so strong that he could show you the compression of the ball just by squeezing it.
Q Speaking of Brett, to take it full circle: Do you think he played so many years because he could or because he wasn't sure what he was going to do after football was over?
A Both. ... With Brett, he's at square one -- "What do I do?" And time doesn't stop for you. For the sake of the lockout, guys are going to get a glimpse of it. And maybe that will be for the best for some of them.