ESPN Wisconsin

Driver goes out in style

Feb 06, 2013 -- 1:37pm
 
Photo/Associated Press via ESPN.com 
Donald Driver announced his retirement after 14 NFL seasons Wednesday.
 

GREEN BAY – Donald Driver rewrote the Green Bay Packers record books, and on Wednesday morning, the wildly popular wide receiver might’ve rewritten the book on how a player should call it a career.

Officially retiring after 14 seasons – all with the Packers, something that was extremely important to him – the franchise’s all-time leading receiver celebrated his career during an unprecedented event inside the Lambeau Field atrium with 1,500 fans, his family, coach Mike McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson, team president/CEO Mark Murphy, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt and a handful of teammates.

"I told myself I wasn't going to cry today so I'm going to hold the emotion back as much as possible. I love you all so much,” said Driver, who retires after catching 743 passes for 10,137 yards after making the team as a long-shot seventh-round draft pick out of Alcorn State in 1999. “It was a tough decision, but my family and I felt it was time for the next chapter in our life.”

Joking that the first item on the post-football to-do list was to remove squirrels from the attic of the family’s offseason home in Dallas, Driver figures to parlay his Dancing with the Stars title into a myriad of non-football opportunities. He said Wednesday that he’ll be guest-hosting Katie Couric’s talk show and appearing on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Weight-loss Edition, among other off-the-field endeavors.

But he will always be known for what he did as a football player – and how he used his football success to become an ambassador for the franchise and vital part of the community. That much was clear when Walker pronounced Wednesday “Donald Driver Day” in the state of Wisconsin, and Schmitt announced that a downtown Green Bay street will be renamed for Driver. In addition, the iconic statue, “The Receiver,” will be repainted to represent Driver, replacing the generic, nameless player wearing No. 88 it currently depicts.

Before tearing up at the end of his brief remarks, McCarthy said Driver’s 61-yard not-to-be-denied touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2010 season embodied the player he was. "If you're looking for a picture of what Donald Driver means to your football team, that's the picture,” McCarthy said.

Thompson, meanwhile, spoke of re-watching tape of Driver in advance of the 1999 NFL Draft, taken aback as a scout by the skinny, unknown receiver.

"We were doing that all the time. 'Can you run that back?'" Thompson said. Explaining why Driver wasn’t drafted sooner, Thompson said matter-of-factly: “Us as scouts make mistakes all the time.”

In the end, though, it all worked out, as Driver finished his career in the conversation as the organization’s most beloved player, alongside Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, who was among those who appeared in a video tribute to Driver.

“When I walked in here in 1999. I knew I could do anything if I believed anything was possible,” Driver said. “Look at me now, I’m the all-time leading receiver in Packers’ history.”

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