Donald Driver: Why We Should All Be Green Bay Packer Fans This February
If I was given the ability to select one man in the history of any sport and put him into that sport's Hall of Fame, I wouldn't choose Pete Rose, Dennis Rodman or Don Mattingly—heck, not even Jerry Kramer.
I would pick Donald Driver. No man in the history of sports stands for what an athlete should be more than him.
The story of this man is a fascinating one. It's also one that few people know.
Driver grew up in the slums. The kid was dirt poor. He lived out of the trunk of his car.
When he was in seventh grade, his older brother noticed Driver's incredible speed, agility and hands—so he put it to use.
Things were so bad for the Drivers that Donald, dubbed "Quickie" by his brothers, was using his God-given talents to steal cars.
Those cars he would sell for drugs, drugs he claims he never used, but rather resold for more money.
Hey, when things are bad, they're bad. Driver says he probably stole 20 or 30 cars, and he was only caught once.
But that once changed everything.
Just as he was starting the car, he heard sirens, so he did what anybody would do—stepped on the gas and got away as fast as possible.
However, just as he was making his escape, he hit an old woman's car as she was backing out of her driveway. He hopped out of the car and sprinted away, and he was in the clear.
He had the cops beat by a few blocks, but something made him turn back.
It was the old lady. He went back to make sure she was okay.
That's right. Driver, who was in the midst of literally running for his life, the same kid who had just been caught stealing a car, turned back to check on the well-being of a woman that he had no affiliation with whatsoever, a woman he had never met in his life.
She was fine, but by the time he got back the police were rounding the corner, so she said to him, "Go sit on my porch."
For some reason he trusted her, and he took a seat on her porch.
By the time the cops got there she told them the lowlife had run off. "So who's that sitting on your porch?" one cop said to her.
The five words that followed would go on to change Driver's life as he knew it: "Oh, that's just my grandson."
Donald was mesmerized. He couldn't believe what had just happened—until the woman walked over to him and said, "Get in this house!" Inside, she went off on him. "Why do you do this?!" she said.
Now, this is no movie. He still stole another car or two because things were that bad. But one year later his mom sent him to live with his grandmother.
He joined the drill team at his grandmother's church and played organized football for the first time at Milby High School, where he found out Olympic speed and great hands can do more than just steal cars.
It then occurred to him what the lady was trying to tell him that day: "You could be doing so much more!"
And he did. Driver starred in track and football at Alcorn State, where he also got his accounting degree.
Isn't it funny how one good deed can mean so much?
After he finished college, Driver had a choice to make: He could either compete in the 2000 Sydney Olympics or join the Green Bay Packers, who had used the 213th overall pick to draft him in 1999.
With his family still in poverty, Driver needed an NFL paycheck desperately, so he chose the Packers.
For two years Driver played every practice as if he would have been arrested for taking a play off, and in 2002, when the Packers were about as desperate for a wide receiver as Driver himself was for money as a kid, guess who came out of nowhere to become a Pro Bowl receiver?
You guessed it: Donald Driver.
Driver didn't disappear after that 2002 season either. The guy has become a Packers legend, the second greatest receiver in team history.
However, talking to Driver, you wouldn't know it. He's never been a "look at me"-type guy, which is why he's flown so wildly under the radar in the same era as guys like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss.
From 2005 to 2008 he was, aside from Marvin Harrison, perhaps the best and most consistent wide receiver in all of football.
Driver holds Packers franchise records for career receiving yards, receptions, 1,000-yard receiving seasons, consecutive games with a reception and 50-plus-catch seasons.
However, that is not why Donald Driver deserves your utmost respect. He deserves it not because of who he is on the field, but rather who he is off it.
He has his own charity, the Donald Driver Foundation, which offers assistance to ill children with unmanageable hospital bills, provides housing for the homeless and donates to a variety of local charities. He is also said to make more charity appearances than any other player on the team by a wide margin.
"He's a wonderful man," says Cathy Dworak, the team's manager of community relations. "He's always smiling, fun, positive. He calls me up and asks if there are any appearances I need done. Can you imagine?"
Earlier this season, with the Packers playing for their playoff lives against the Detroit Lions, Driver noticed his quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn't look right after taking a brutal hit on a scramble on the last series.
He told him that he should leave the game, that his future as a human being was more important than a stupid game. Keep in mind that's coming from a 36-year-old veteran in perhaps his last chance to win a Super Bowl, risking a shot at the playoffs to do something that I guarantee you 99 percent of other NFL players wouldn't have done.
It turned out Rodgers had his second concussion of the season. Driver very well may have saved his career.
That is why I root for the little engine that could from Alcorn State—because he cares about the people.
He cares about the fans, the kids, his teammates and even people he's never met (remember that old lady).
Which is why I will pray to God that if there is one great game left in Donald Driver's 36-year-old body, we see it on Super Bowl Sunday.
Nobody deserves a ring more.
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