Imagine growing up with your mother and siblings so poor that your family spends most of your childhood nights sleeping in a U-Haul. Selling Drugs and stealing cars for money with your brothers just to get by. Growing up wasn’t easy for Donald Driver, but football kept him at peace, even if it meant playing in the streets of a bad neighborhood. After high school he attended a small College called Alcorn State where he played all 4 years of football there. In the 7th round of the 1999 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers selected Donald Driver and for the next 14 years the beloved Driver made Lambeau his personal playground.
Playing with Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre for the better part of his career, Driver became the Packers all-time leader in receptions (743) and yards with 10,137. He also caught 61 touchdowns in green & gold which ranks third all-time in the Franchise’s history. He is second only to Favre in games played as a Packer with 205 total. From 2002 till 2010 he recorded a catch in 133 consecutive games, (Franchise record) and seven 1,000 yard receiving seasons. He is one of only 18 NFL wideouts who caught over 700 catches, 10,000 yards receiving in 200 games. Throughout his career he was a four-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl Champion in 2010 and simply a winner. But records don’t paint the picture for how important #80 was to Green Bay.
His wide and white smile, along with his contagious laughter made him one of the most cherished players in Green Bay history. He was respected all-around the league for catching Favre’s laser-like throws, some of the hardest thrown balls in NFL history. Driver suffered broken fingers (some of which bent in angles that just aren’t right) but kept on playing through the pain. An always humble, family man, Driver was a regular throughout Titletown and seen as “just another guy” by all the fans who paid to see him on Sundays. He was a fierce competitor, but never took the game too seriously always smiling, laughing and having fun. Never a dull moment, whenever Driver got a chance to take the Lambeau leap, fans never let go of him because he always had a special bond with the them. After every first down he caught, he would get up and do his famous”shimmy” first down dance that many fans (including myself) fell in love with. His fearlessness to go across the middle, catch a ball, and then get rocked by an oncoming safety, but still to come up smiling made him one of the most fun players to watch. He was the leader of nationally known group of receivers (NFL Sunday Countdown did a special on them) called “Favre’s Five” which included Pro-Bowler Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. In his last significant statistical season, (2010) Driver’s receiving core and Aaron Rodgers, made a magical run as the NFC 6th seed and went on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 which gave Driver a well deserved Super Bowl ring. He announced his retirement early today on “Mike & Mike in the Morning” but will hold a special press conference in Lambeau field’s atrium, open to all the Packer faithful, for free on Feb. 6th.
Personally as a Packer fan for life and being a Wide Receiver, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings became my two favorite players in the League. I wear number 80 in honor of Driver because never once was he outworked by someone else. From a tough childhood to becoming Green Bay’s favorite and most decorated Receiver, Donald Driver surely will have his number 80 retired along with the possibility of a street or Restaurant named after him in Titletown. While Driver will continue to be a prominent figure in the Green Bay community and around Lambeau, We will all miss his electrifying smile and fearless play that made him a staple in Green Bay for 14 years. Long live number 80, the Shimmy and on behalf of all Packer Fans, Thanks Donald Driver.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.
Images of Donald Driver Career…