Donald Driver entered the NFL as a 7th round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1999. Fourteen years later and Driver has officially retired, also as a member of the only team he’s known his entire career.
The retirement news came out at the Super Bowl in New Orleans last week, and Driver made it official during a one-hour ceremony at Lambeau Field’s Atrium today.
Driver thanked all of those responsible for allowing him to get where he is today, starting with former GM Ron Wolf, who drafted him out of Alcorn State. It ended with a thank you to the fans.
More than 1,000 fans stood in line early to get into the ceremony when the doors opened this morning. Driver was amazed at those that stood in line last Friday in the cold to snap up the limited amount of free tickets that were available to the public and were gone in less than 15 minutes.
AUDIO: Donald Driver on fans getting tickets to this event :17
When asked if he could see himself coming back to Green Bay to coach, the crowd let out a loud cheer. But Driver said he didn’t see any coaching gigs in his future and was more interested in spending more time with his family.
Driver spent his entire 14-year career with two quarterbacks. From Bret Favre, he said he learned about toughness, never showing the opponent that you might be hurt. He grew to appreciate the same toughness and strong will from the second quarterback he played with, Aaron Rodgers.
The way the game is today, with free agency coming into play and a teams desire to build through the draft and stay young, it’s hard to imagine a player spending 14 years with the same organization. But that’s just what Donald Driver has done. He ensured that he’ll play for no other team by announcing his retirement today.
AUDIO: Driver on making his retirement officials :12
AUDIO: Driver on what he’ll miss most :13
Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker both came bearing gifts.
From Schmitt, Driver was given his own street in Green Bay (Donald Driver Way), a key to the city and a refurbished statue outside the Titletown Brewery with Driver’s name and number on it.
From Governor Walker, Driver gets his own day. Today is officially Donald Driver Day (proclamation pdf).
The ceremony also featured congratulatory messages on a video screen from the likes of Bob Harlan, Bart Starr, James Lofton, Brian McKnight and friends from Dancing with the Stars.
Driver will be missed on the field, but he played football the right way and he did everything off the field the right way. He’s endeared himself to Packers’ fans around the country and he’ll be forever remembered as one of the greats in the organization’s rich history.
Driver will soon be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and given his popularity, will likely have endorsement deals coming from all directions for many years to come.