Driver Says Goodbye
Gus Merwin

After 14 seasons in the green and gold, Packers great Donald Driver has hung up his cleats for good.

In a televised ceremony held in the Lambeau Field Atrium last Wednesday, Driver officially announced his retirement from the National Football League in front of friends, members of the Packer orga­nization, and hundreds of fans.

“Twelve years ago I signed my first big contract for the Green Bay Packers, and I promised you all that I would never wear another uniform. So today we make that official,” Driver said to fans during the cer­emony.

Driver was drafted by Green Bay in the seventh round of the 1999 draft out of Alcorn State in Mississippi. In his 14 seasons with the Packers he has amassed 10,137 yards receiv­ing on 743 receptions, both franchise records. Driver is also third in career touchdown catches with 61, trailing only Hall of Famer Don Hutson, 99, and Sterling Sharpe, 65.

This past season was certainly a change for the veteran. As the senior member of one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the NFL, Driver played a limited role on offense, mak­ing way for younger players like Randall Cobb.

Driver even had a stint on spe­cial teams and was inactive for the Packers final home game. He ended the season with 77 yards and two touchdowns, off of just eight catches.

Despite his limited role, Driver continued to receive the loudest cheers of any player during team introductions. During his press con­ference, Driver said that that’s what he would miss the most. The fans didn’t care if he caught a single pass, he was still their guy.

“Success has not changed me,” Driver said at the ceremony. “I’m the same skinny little kid who walked in 1999. I’ll be the same skinny kid who walked out in 2013.”

That success could have just as easily evaded him. In Driver’s hum­ble beginnings in Texas, he and his brother would steal cars to make money. Stealing cars soon turned into selling drugs. He and his siblings would sometimes sleep in the back of a U-Haul truck. Until Driver decided he was going to make the most of his athletic ability.

“He came from a rough back­ground and turned his life around to become one of the best receivers for the Packers,” said junior education major Shea Sumnicht about Driver, her favorite player.

It’s more than his story and suc­cess on the field that have made Driver a hero among the Green Bay faithful. He has been far and away the most active member of the team when it comes to volunteering in the community.

Once Brett Favre left the Packers, Driver took over Favre’s annual char­ity softball game. He also hosts an annual golf tournament and makes appearances and contributions to countless other community events.

Through The Donald Driver Foundation, scholarships are given each year to students in his home state of Texas, Mississippi, where Driver played his college ball, and Wisconsin.

Driver reached a new audience when he competed on the 14th season of Dancing with the Stars. Along with his partner, Peta Murgatroyd, Driver took advantage of his athletic ability, charisma, and bright smile and won first place, adding another accolade to his name.

“I think the thing I’ll remember about him is how he always had a smile on his face,” said junior health promotion and wellness major Ryan Finnel.

Indeed the thing you first notice about Driver is his smile. No matter how hard he got hit after catching a pass over the middle he would always pop up grinning. Driver said he learned that from his time playing with Favre.

During the ceremony, Driver said Favre taught him to never let them see you hurt, something Favre became known for during his career and something Driver always carried with him.

Now this chapter of Driver’s life is through. Much speculation has been made over his next step. He recently made an appearance on a wedding edition of Katie Couric’s show, something Driver said during his press conference that he has a passion for.

Whether Driver gets into event planning, broadcasting, or someday coaching, one thing is certain; he’ll do it with every bit of passion and heart that he showed on the field.