14-year veteran Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver is rumored to be leaning towards retiring before the start of 2013 season. Driver has spent all 14 years in Green Bay and holds the franchise records in receptions and receiving yards, as well as recording seven seasons with 1,000 yards, another franchise record.
A seventh-round draft pick out of Alcorn State, Driver soon became a fan favorite in Titletown with his omnipresent smile and work ethic. Homeless at times as a child, and a car thief as a teenager, Driver turned his life around, and has been an active presence in the Green Bay community since he was drafted. His foundation contributes to numerous charitable causes such as helping homeless families find residence and helping families with sick children pay medical bills, and Driver’s appearances at charitable events have been countless.
Driver has also gained a reputation as a great teammate, often reaching out to the young receivers on the team, always putting the team first. This season, for example, Driver played only sparingly and was a healthy inactive more than once. Never did he complain to the media or lobby for more playing time, although it was obviously tough for him to sit on the sidelines. After being inactive for Green Bay’s playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Driver went to his coaches and asked if he could play on special teams, something I can’t imagine another veteran wide receiver in the NFL ever even considering. The coaches listened to Driver – and the fans clamoring for number 80 to be on the field – and Driver played special teams in Green Bay’s final game this year.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has this to say of the receiver:
Donald Driver is a class act, to say the least. He’s a pro’s pro. He does everything you’ve ever asked of him. We’ve had conversations of late here, with part of what’s going on with him being active and inactive, and he’s handled it very well. He’s an excellent teammate. Everybody clearly understands what he means to this organization and what he’s done. He’s out there preparing every day, getting ready to play.
While Driver found more widespread fame due to winning the 14th season of Dancing with the Stars, he fell victim to the Packers’ impressive depth at receiver. Though Driver has stayed in excellent shape, it was tough to see the field when he shares a position with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones.
Driver has said many times that he wants to play until he’s 40, and reiterated that again this year after the Packers were ousted from the playoffs, but is rumored to be considering retirement seriously. Honestly, I hope he retires. He’s been fantastic for Green Bay and has a place in every fan’s heart, but it’s no longer practical for the Packers to keep a 37-year-old receiver on the roster. There’s a possibility another team might offer Driver a one-year, minimum contract, but no Packer fan wants to see 80 wear another jersey for just one season – and there’s no guarantee he’d see playing time elsewhere. I think, too, that Driver would like to end his playing time in Green Bay.
If Driver chooses to retire, he will do so as one of the most beloved players in a very storied franchise. It would avoid an awkward situation in Green Bay, as well as potential embarrassment if Driver were unable to find another team. I hope Driver rides off into the sunset after 14 great seasons, three Pro Bowls, several team records, a Super Bowl ring, and the undying love of the league’s best fanbase.