Little did any of us know that Donald Driver would spend the next decade metamorphosing from a little-known recruit from Alcorn State University into the Packers’ all-time best receiver—and one of the most understated members of the team.
At the time he was drafted, there was serious doubt regarding whether or not he would be able to make the final 52-man roster to be a part of the Packers team for the 1999 season. After making Super Bowl runs for the previous two seasons, the Packers were well-stocked at wide receiver.
After earning a spot on the roster, Driver found himself in the depth chart behind well-known names such as Antonio Freeman, Desmond Howard, and Bill Schroeder. He played little during his first season, but found himself in a more prominent role the following year.
By 2002, Driver had established himself as one of the best receivers in the NFC. He had become a favorite target of quarterback Brett Favre, but more importantly he had demonstrated that he was a dependable receiver who could be counted on to get the job done no matter what it took.
From that point forward, Driver’s career became all about being the go-to man whenever the offense needed a boost. The ball may not always land in his hands, but by maintaining the physical prowess that makes him so capable, he impacts the offense in a consistent, positive way.
Driver is not a perennial Pro Bowl player, but he has been there four times in his 12-year career. He doesn’t win awards or generate tons of fan accolades for the job he does, but he’s still the man throwing his body into the middle of the field to catch those important 3rd-and-10 passes that keep a drive alive without stopping the clock.
Both on and off the field, he is a presence that inspires others to be better. He is a charitable man who wants to better the lives of those around him, particularly children who suffer from the same challenges that haunted his own childhood.
Almost every time you see him, through good times and bad, he’s wearing that trademark smile.
Perhaps that is what makes Driver’s remarkable accomplishments even more special. He simply does his thing both on and off of the field without any of the grandstanding that has become so common in the NFL.
Although there wasn’t much fuss about it, last week against the Carolina Panthers Driver achieved a major milestone in his career.
With a 10-yard catch late in the third quarter, Driver surpassed James Lofton to become the most prolific receiver in Packers franchise history. At the time of this article, he has accumulated a career total of 703 passes for 9,666 yards, both franchise records.
He will almost certainly be the first man in franchise history to surpass 10,000 receiving yards in his career.
According to Driver, there is plenty more left in the tank. That’s fortunate, because although he has cemented his place for the time being as the Packers’ most prolific receiver, there’s still one more record within his reach this year.
By the end of the season, health permitting, Driver will have played more games as a wide receiver than any man in Packers history.
In an NFL world driven by free agency and greed, Driver has stuck with the Packers organization for his entire career. The relationship has proved to be beneficial for both Driver and the team, but perhaps most of all to the community he has built around himself in Wisconsin.
Certainly, congratulations on accomplishing this feat are in order for Donald Driver.
The Packers are a better team for his perseverance, leadership and positive attitude throughout the years.