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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tribute to Donald Driver
Donald Driver announced his retirement today from the Green Bay Packers. He certainly has his place in history secure as one of the all time Packer greats. I married my wife, who is a Utah native in 2008 and Donald was greatly responsible for turning her into a rabid Packer fan! In fact, while shopping at the Packer Pro Shop in at Lambeau last year, she bought one of Donald's "Quickie" books to read to her to her granddaughter.  We'll sure miss him, but will always have a lot of great memories. I had the pleasure of seeing him up close at Lambeau in 2007 as he was signing autographs. There is a clip below of what my wife and me think was Donald and Peta's greatest performance last season on "Dancing With the Stars". We'll miss ya Quickie!

Article below thanks to the Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A link is provided below:
New Orleans - For the longest time, nothing or no one could catch Donald Driver.
Not a small-school background or low-round draft status, not a half-dozen high-round draft picks brought in to take his job, not even the dreaded 30-year-old wall that catches up to so many skill players in the National Football League.
Even now, after playing in just 12.8% of the Green Bay Packers' snaps from scrimmage and catching eight passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns in 2012, Driver refuses to give in to the notion that Father Time has drawn even.
But after 14 seasons and 220 games including playoffs, Driver, who will turn 38 Saturday, has stopped running. At peace with the reality that the Packers weren't going to re-sign him and unwilling to put on another team's uniform, Driver announced his retirement Thursday.
"It was just time, sitting down with the wife and kids," said Driver, who was taking part in a charity event here at Super Bowl XLVII. "I've always said I never want to wear another uniform. I've always said that I owe it to the fans to retire as a Packer.
"I feel like I can still play, but if I can't play for my organization, then I can't play for anyone else. I'm happy with the decision I made."
The club will hold a retirement party open to the public at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Lambeau Field Atrium.
Driver flashed his brilliant smile over and over again as he talked to a small group of reporters at the New Orleans Convention Center and never talked wistfully of his decision.
"It will be a little tougher on Feb. 6," he admitted. "I'm going to get emotional. I'm trying not to get too emotional today, but Feb. 6 I know I will be emotional."
Emotion was never part of the equation when it came time for Driver to do business, and early in his career it was obvious he would stay ahead of the competition long after it caught others.
Then-general manager Ron Wolf selected Driver in the seventh round in 1999, 213 spots into a 253-pick draft, and then told him to take advantage of the opportunity he had been given. A world-class track athlete at Alcorn State, Driver was more athlete than receiver when he got to Green Bay, and Wolf wanted him to work at being great.
Then a young, raw product himself, Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said he first really noticed Driver during a training camp practice in '99.
Hasselbeck said he was sent in to run a base play in the West Coast offense called, "Red right 24 double-go." The quarterback has a receiver on the left and a receiver on the right, and both are running go routes.
"I'm going through my cadence and I look over and go, 'OK, this guy got drafted in the seventh round (Driver) and this guy got drafted in like the third or fourth round," Hasselbeck recalled. "So I threw it to that guy. Sherm Lewis, the offensive coordinator, cursed me out and pulled me out of there.
"He was like, 'What are you doing throwing to that guy, we've got Donald Driver winning down the sideline? He's wide open.' In my mind, he was a seventh-round pick. But that's what Donald did. There were always guys drafted ahead of him who were supposedly better than him, from a bigger school. He was just better."
Driver went on to become a fixture in the Packers' offense.
He finishes his career No. 1 on the Packers' all-time list in receptions (743), receiving yards (10,137) and 1,000-yard seasons (seven). He ranks No. 2 in team history for most regular-season games played with 205, trailing only Brett Favre (255).
The 6-foot, 194-pound Driver began his career catching passes from Favre and ended it catching them from Aaron Rodgers. He flourished most under Favre, who came to love Driver's toughness and reliability. Late in his career, Favre would regularly pick Driver up on his shoulder in celebration after completing a touchdown pass to him.
Driver was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and won a long-awaited Super Bowl ring during the 2010 season, even though he was unable to finish the final game due to an ankle injury. But he accomplished something many NFL players don't: He retired having played for just one team.
"He won him a Super Bowl and played with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks," San Francisco receiver Randy Moss said when told about Driver's decision. "You can't ask for more than that."
Said Moss' teammate cornerback Carlos Rogers: "He doesn't have anything to look back on and be sad about. He gave it his all."
Meeting with McCarthy
After meeting with coach Mike McCarthy after the team's divisional round playoff loss to the 49ers, Driver knew his time was up.
McCarthy meets individually with every player after the season, and there was plenty of emotion in the room. McCarthy was quarterbacks coach in '99 when Driver - the last player on the Packers roster with a connection to Wolf - was drafted, and Driver produced four 1,000-yard seasons for him.
"I just kind of knew in his eyes," Driver said. "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 Packers did not make McCarthy or general manager Ted Thompson available for comment on Driver's retirement.
Bypassed this season
Driver was one of six wide receivers to make the 53-man roster this season, but it became clear fairly early on that he would not have a major role in the offense. With Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb ahead of him, the Packers were loaded at receiver - and will continue to be even with Driver retiring and Jennings likely gone in free agency.
Even rookie Jarrett Boykin got more work than Driver as the season wore on. The Packers later signed receiver/returner Jeremy Ross from the practice squad, and he was active ahead of Driver in the team's final game at Lambeau Field, a 24-10 playoff victory Jan. 5 against Minnesota.
During his time with the Packers, Driver was more than just a recognizable figure on the field. Having once been homeless as a child, he became a fixture in the community, giving back to the poor through associations with Goodwill, the Salvation Army and many other charities.
His popularity was so great that a Facebook page was created after the Vikings playoff game to pressure the Packers into activating him for the 49ers game.
In later years, Driver was a constant in the commercial endorsement field, giving sales pitches for everything from fast food to airlines to convenience stores. After winning "Dancing With the Stars" last spring, his popularity grew beyond the state borders and is strong nationwide.
His allegiance with Wisconsin will remain strong, however.
"We're not going to stop doing what we do," Driver said of himself and his wife, Betina. "We felt like the community gave back to us; we have to give back to them. That's my second home. I'm born and raised in Houston, Texas, but Wisconsin is always going to be a home for me and I'll always be back."
Across the Twitter world, teammates expressed congratulations to Driver for a long and honored career and even took to cyberspace to suggest the Packers should retire his No. 80. The Packers have stopped retiring numbers, but Driver has often talked about the number being retired in honor of him and James Lofton, who also wore No. 80 and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Said guard T.J. Lang on Twitter: "@Donald_Driver80 it was a pleasure to share the field with you for 4 years! Great player, tremendous person. #retire80."
Added Jennings: "Nothing but a class act. @Donald_Driver80 congrats on great career also on showing us all how to #Begreat on and off the field."
Driver's Milwaukee-based publicist, Brian Lammi, said in retirement Driver would be looking for television opportunities, but he would not limit himself to being a sports analyst. He is already a correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America" and may seek out more opportunities like that.
"I think he's interested in the sports stuff, but I think he's also interested in some general entertainment things that don't have to be pure football related," Lammi said. "I keep telling people he's going to be more involved and more engaged in the Wisconsin community and will certainly have some national opportunities, too.
"I don't look at this like an ending, but kind of like a beginning or another stage."


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