Next Up for Driver: A Lambeau Leap into Packers Hall of FamePosted:Jan 31st, 2013 10:17 pm
He won't go down as the best Packers wide receiver ever, but Donald Driver retires as the most prolific, productive and beloved receiver in Green Bay Packers history.
For many, he's a walking symbol of Green Bay Packers football. The ultimate underdog in a very competitive world. When he was drafted in the seventh round out of Alcorn State, he was given uniform #13, probably representing his place on the depth chart among receivers in camp. He toiled in relative obscurity for three seasons before finally getting his chance. Once he got it, he didn't relinquish it until he was ready to--now, 14 years later.
Don Hutson, a member of the NFL 75th anniversary team, a guy whose record 99 TDs for a receiver stood for 44 years after he retired, will likely always be the Pack's greatest receiver ever. James Lofton had a Hall of Fame career in Green Bay and Oakland and was a fluid, gifted receiver on a lot of bad and mediocre teams. Sterling Sharpe was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before a neck injury caused him to retire in his prime.
But Driver, who famously spent part of his childhood in poverty, homeless for a time and living in a U-Haul trailer. Yet he survived and became a role model for millions. We'll always remember him for his toughness, work ethic, personality and that smile.
He added millions of new fans who care very little about the NFL (like my wife) when he competed on "Dancing with the Stars." Here he showed that he wasn't afraid to be the amateur member of a team, wasn't afraid to make mistakes under a nationally televised audience, wasn't afraid to show a different side of himself. That he won surprises few Packer fans who know that the ultimate underdog worked for everything he got--pretty much from the time he was born.
He leaves the NFL on his terms, which is how it should be. And now when he announces his retirement publicly, in front of hundreds of fans at Lambeau Field, he will be treated like the historic Packer that he is and receive the proper send-off.
Lofton wore #80 well. But Donald Driver wore it better. And no Packer should ever wear that number again.