Opinion corner: Driver was a class actIt’s a story that hasn’t received much press in this part of the country but Donald Driver’s retirement, and his saga from youth to professional, is truly a tale any football fan can appreciate.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
It’s a story that hasn’t received much press in this part of the country but Donald Driver’s retirement, and his saga from youth to professional, is truly a tale any football fan can appreciate.
Driver, who retired from the Green Bay Packers last week, set numerous franchise records by a wide receiver for a club that has had two great quarterbacks throwing the ball to a deep stable of receivers since the early 1990s.
DD, as he’s know, left Green Bay the all-time leader in receptions with 743, receiving yards with 10,137 and receiving touchdowns with 61. During his 14-year career he had seven seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving.
Driver had enough receiving yards, going over the middle, breaking tackles and slicing up defenses for 5.75 of driving miles down Interstate 94. Set your odometer and think about that next time you’re driving on the highway, if they ever get cleared from out latest blizzard, of course.
Driver also proved very reliable, missing just four games over his entire career.
He is also an Olympic-caliber athlete and could have qualified for Sydney in 2000 with his high jump of 7 feet 6 inches.
Those numbers are stellar for the seventh-round pick out of Alcorn State, an FCS school in Lorman, Miss., with a student population around 4,400.
But it’s where Driver came from and what he has done outside of football that makes him a remarkable person.
Driver came out of poverty in Houston, Texas. Growing up he ate mayonnaise sandwiches for sustenance, when his mother ran out of food stamps.
For a time he lived in a U-Haul trailer without heat, water or electricity.
To make ends meet he and his brother stole cars and sold drugs. He even had a gun pointed at his head by a drug dealer growing up.
Years later he will go down as the greatest receiver to ever wear the fabled Green and Gold. Driver’s on-field accomplishments in my opinion are only a small part of that.
Anyone who has lived in Green Bay or Wisconsin knows Driver for his countless charitable contributions to the community.
I recall one Christmas season I was stuck at work while in college, but heard Driver was ringing bells for the Salvation Army at Bay Park Square, the area mall.
I gave a friend some money to put in the red kettle for an autograph, and lunch for his troubles. That autographed picture still hangs in my brother’s bedroom.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina I was at an arena football game in Green Bay and there was Driver, who flew out and put up a New Orleans high school marching band, which was performing the halftime show.
Those were two of the more than 300 charitable appearances Driver made during his career, which began in 1999.
After his third season in Green Bay he and his wife, Betina, created the Donald Driver Foundation.
It helps cover hospital bills for the poor, provides housing assistance and donates to numerous area charities. In 2003 his foundation put two-area homeless families in new, fully furnished homes.
He’s also a major volunteer for Goodwill Industries and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Those are the feats I will remember Driver for, not his on-field heroics.
He has however made some remarkable plays and helped bring the Lombardi Trophy back to its rightful home.
But he helped so many less fortunate them himself. Something I find remarkable for a person growing up surrounded by poverty and crime.
Watching DD make Green Bay his own community, and helping so many people, was a moving experience for a fan who never went through the struggles he did.
In this day and age athletes make headlines for mistakes on drugs, guns, violence and other horrible acts. It’s not too often an athlete is heralded for his positive contributions.
Donald Driver was a class act on the field and off. Regardless of what team you cheer for, it’s easy to appreciate a person like that.
Ben Rogers is a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner