Donald Driver's Perserverance Not Just Part Of The Job
When Ron Wolf held the 213th pick in 1999 Draft, he might have known he was getting a special player. Wolf probably did not expect that player, however, to break records held by the 90-year-old franchise.
Once the ball softly rests in Donald Driver's hands for the first time Sunday, he will break the record for the most receptions in Packer history. The reception, which will be number 596, will move him ahead of Sterling Sharpe.
The game against the Detroit Lions will be Driver's 150th game, all of them as a Packer.
Through those 149 games, he has become a fan favorite by playing with heart. At a position where others are outspoken and out of control, Driver has been a steady companion to his quarterback.
Driver fights for yards instead of with teammates, and his showboating is held a small first down celebration. It is obvious he plays with great passion, passion kindled during Driver's childhood in Houston.
Donald Jerome Driver grew up in harsh conditions with his mother and four siblings. So despite how hard a middle linebacker lays into him on the field, he has already experienced the worst off of it.
"There's nothing out there that can hurt me worse than what I went through as a kid," Driver said in a 2007 interview with ESPN. "Living in U-Haul trucks in and out of hotels...sleeping on the street. I know how that feels."
He told ESPN he made a promise to his brothers and family he would pull them out of poverty. Driver kept the focus through college before making his way to the Green Bay Packers.
Driver actually had a more accomplished track and field resume than he did in football while at Alcorn State. He could have qualified for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a high jumper. While Driver lettered in football as well as track and field, he only had 88 receptions while at the university.
Somehow through those 88 receptions, Wolf took notice and used one of their seventh round picks to nab the six-foot-wide receiver.
"When the Green Bay Packers called on the phone, that was maybe the biggest turning point in my life because I knew now I had the opportunity to do something no one else in my family could do," Driver said.
Driver's career started out like most other seventh round draft picks, accumulating 37 receptions through his first three years, and making little impact. After Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder left the Packers, however, Driver stepped into a leading role with a 1000 plus yard season in 2002.
Since then, he has steadily been a force. Driver has never had 100 receptions in a season, but if he holds pace in 2009, it will mark the seventh year of a 1000 plus yard season.
Throughout his career, Driver assets have proved invaluable. He has never complained about his situation, even when young studs like Javon Walker and Greg Jennings saw more passes their way. Instead, he has mentored those young wideouts, and set the mentality of the position for the team.
In 2007, media took notice of the hunger of the Packers receivers in their yards after catch. Koren Robinson lauded the veteran Driver as the best in cranking out a few more yards.
"I don't want to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty nice," Robinson said. "But I would say Drive."
"Those are my boys. They're watching out for the old man," said Driver.
The mentality to never give up has not escaped Driver off the field, either. He founded the Donald Driver Foundation in 2000, which helps homeless families and the education problems they face. Driver's mother, Faye, has been his inspiration to never give up.
"Never give up because of what people say," Driver said to ESPN. "Because I look at my mom and she never gave up. You have to survive."
So when Aaron Rodgers reaches back to fire the ball today toward Double D's direction, it will be more than a number. It is a statement, and an echo of perseverance of what Donald Driver has been about in his life.
It could not have happened to a better person.
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