As expected, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver has decided to retire after 14 seasons. He revealed his decision on Wednesday morning, but will be making the announcement official on Feb. 6 at Lambeau Field.
I try to look at Driver and his career objectively, but I just can’t. Yeah, the guy probably has an unrealistic estimation of his legacy, and he’s had a disappointing last couple of years to end his career, but when I think of Driver, I just think of why he is, and always has been, a fan favorite.
I think of his first down shimmy. I think of how fearlessly he went over the middle, even late his career and never shied from contact. I think of his underdog story and how he always seemed truly grateful for his success, for his family, for his teammates and for his fans.
It is fitting that fans will be allowed to participate in his retirement announcement on Feb. 6, which fans can attend free of charge. It’s not just the fans who love him – teammates Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Josh Sitton, Tom Crabtree, Bryan Bulaga and others have went to Twitter to thank Driver. It’s noticeable that they all mention not only his on-field accomplishments, but the example he set off the field, too.
“Someone will always be able to tell my kids that their dad was a great football player,” Driver said, “But no one will be able to tell them that their dad was a great dad and a great husband. I have to be able to show them that, and that’s what the next chapter of my career is going to be.”
Driver spoke on how tough the decision was, especially since he feels that he is still able to play. It was clear at the end-of-the-year meetings with head coach Mike McCarthy that the team was not going to offer him another contract:
I just kind of knew in his eyes … When you’ve known a guy for so long and you’re friends, it’s hard for him to tell you that they’re not going to bring me back. I just kind of looked at him and I just kind of knew that that’s what they were going to do … I just wanted to make it easy on the organization, not put any pressure on them and just be able to walk away on my own terms and not have them say, ‘We’re not going to bring you back.’
The receiver harbors no ill will towards McCarthy or the organization. “We were able to say what we had to say toward each other and we walked out of there with hugs. I think that was the biggest thing. We didn’t walk out of there with bitterness about what happened this season. It was great.”
Feb. 6 is going to be a fun celebration of a guy who overcame long odds to reach the record books. It will be one last chance for Driver to thank the fans, and the fans to thank Driver, for 14 really fun seasons.