Donald Driver: More Than a Game

M. S.Correspondent IMay 17, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 14:  Donald Driver #80 of the Green Bay Packers lines up during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal stadium on December 14, 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Donald Driver, entering his 10th season for the Green Bay Packers, is closing in on a few all-time records for the Green and Gold. He has six 1,000-yard receiving years and has racked up 43 touchdowns in his storied career as a Packer. 

However, what gets lost in the stats and first down shimmys is how Driver got to this point. 

This is his story.

Donald Jerome Driver was born to Marvin Driver and Faye Gray on Feb. 2, 1975 in Houston, Texas. It quickly became apparent that Driver had serious speed, as at an early age he was given the nickname ‘Quickie’ by his parents who got so tired of chasing him around the house.

The youngster learned a quick lesson of humility very early on in his life. His mother would often skip meals to continue working late through the night and, at one point, Driver and his four other siblings lived in a U-Haul truck for days and nights on end.

Driver also lived in numerous hotels that his mother paid for using food stamps, as well as living in friend’s houses and not knowing what tomorrow would bring.

Laying in his bed one night, shared with his brother, Driver told his brother he would get his family out of the hell they were living in. After his parents divorced, his father went to jail and Driver turned to drug dealing as a way to cope with the tough times.

After spending many nights without parents and multiple holidays by himself, at the age of 14, Driver moved in with his grandmother Betty Lofton. There, his grandmother made him attend church and bible study on a weekly basis.

It was then that Driver attended Milby High School in Houston, where he excelled in sports from the day he stepped on campus.  He was a four sport athlete, lettering in track, football, basketball, and baseball all four years.

His father was an outstanding football player who could have made it in the pros, but when his father died, he needed to support his wife and had to give up his dreams.  Driver would watch highlight tapes of his father that led to his interest in football. 

In high school, Driver was an honorable mention All-State player in football and excelled in track and field.

Driver’s hard work on the field paid off as he received a four-year scholarship to attend Alcorn State University. There, he became an Olympic class high jumper, topping out at seven feet, six inches.

He won the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Athlete of the Year Award three years in a row. Had he not taken up football as a profession, Driver could have qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games.

On the gridiron, Driver showed just as much progress and production. In his final year at Alcorn State, the senior caught 55 balls for 1,128 yards and 10 touchdowns. Going into the 1999 NFL Draft, he was just 6'0", weighed 174 pounds, and was considered by many more of a track star than someone that compete in the NFL.

However, the Green Bay Packers gave him a look in the seventh and final round of the draft, selecting him with the 213th overall pick.

Nine years and 577 catches later, Driver is the same person that laid in the bed next to his brother, promising to help his family out.  The only difference is that Driver is now helping others.

In 2000, Driver began the Donald Driver Foundation with the goal to “help change homeless family and education issues each day with strong hands that build and strengthen instead of destroy and weaken, with strong minds that invent new ideas to achieve these goals, and with loving hears that overflow with love and compassion.”

The foundation has helped 17 families purchase homes and assist in mortgages in the Green Bay and Houston areas and also provides 10 $1,000-tuitions to students in Texas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin.

Driver has hosted fundraisers for the foundation that include the annual Donald Driver Golf Classic, the Celebrity Nine-Ball Shootout, and the annual Donald Driver Football Camp.

In 2002, Driver was given the “Walter Payton Man of the Year Award” for the Packers for his work in the community.  He has been given numerous awards for other work that he has done and received a “JB Award” in 2007, named after CBS’ James Brown, given to a select few players in the league for their contributions to their communities.

He does not have the mouth of a Terrell Owens or the ego of a Chad Johnson.  Yet, the little known track star out of a small school in Mississippi has made it big in the NFL.  At 33 years old, Driver has not let up one bit and has stayed the Packers second best option on the offensive side of the ball.

A big part of why Greg Jennings does not have the wide receiver superstar ego has to be because of Driver.  He is an excellent mentor that has been through every rough patch out there and has no doubt helped in that regard.

To put it very lightly, Donald Driver understands hard work.  He also understands that sometimes it takes a little help from others to get through tough times in his life.

The stats speak volumes about Driver’s play on the field, but his cheek-to-cheek smile speak even louder about how grateful Driver is to be where he is at.  Shimmy on, Donald.  We’re all cheering for you.


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