Donald Driver: ‘It’s been an awesome, awesome ride.’
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Donald Driver officially retired as a Green Bay Packer on Wednesday at Lambeau Field while surrounded by his family, friends, fans, and coaches.
“Twelve years ago I signed my first big contract with the Green Bay Packers and I promised you all that I would never wear another uniform,” Driver said, addressing the fans. “So today, we made that official. I kept my promise to you.”
Driver played for the Packers for 14 years, becoming the team’s all-time leading receiver. “In my humble opinion, the all-time Lambeau leaper,” added Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
During the retirement event, the Packers played a highlight reel of Driver’s work on and off the field. He ended his career with 61 touchdown receptions, getting his first one on December 12, 1999, from then-quarterback Brett Favre. Driver said Favre brought him under his wing and instilled in him the toughness in the game. “Don’t let anyone know you’re hurt,” Driver said Favre told him. “Show that beautiful smile and then get back to the huddle.”
Driver says quarterback Aaron Rodgers instilled in him a love for the game. No matter how much confidence you have, people are going to doubt you, Driver said. You just have to believe in yourself and keep your work ethic.
Off the field, Driver won Season 14 of “Dancing with the Stars” with partner Peta Murgatroyd in 2012. Governor Scott Walker said he watched every week and was impressed by his work ethic and his determination.
Governor Walker presented Driver with a plaque and declared Wednesday, February 6, “Donald Driver Day.” Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt said the city is going to change a statue of a wide receiver and put no. 80 and “Driver” on the jersey. The city is also naming a street after him, Donald Driver Way.
Driver fought back tears as he spoke to fans, recalling the great memories he’ll take away from his time as a Packers wide receiver and how grateful he is for all of the support he’s received over the years.
“I love you all so much! You guys stood out in the cold to get tickets to share this moment with me. You all are crazy,” Driver said with a laugh, praising Packers fans for their loyalty to him and the team.
“Today is the day that I have decided to retire from the National Football League. It has been a tough decision for my family and I, but it was time for the next chapter in our lives,” Driver said holding back tears. “Now, who knows what that may be, but my wife already made it clear that the first thing in retirement will be to get the squirrels out of our attic in Dallas.
“Even though I feel that I can still play the game, God has made it clear to me that the time is now. I have to retire as a Green Bay Packer.”
Driver thanked his family, friends, coaches and teammates for being there for him through this journey.
He told his three young kids, “Thank you for being my number one cheering section even though you never watched daddy play a full game because you’re always in the hallway doing your thing.”
To his wife, Driver said, “Baby, I love you. I thank you for the love and support for the last 16 years of my life; 14 years of playing this game; 13 years of marriage. You’re the backbone of our family. Life without you in my life is nothing.”
When asked what he’ll miss most about his time in the NFL, Driver said running out of the tunnel and hearing 70,000 fans cheering him on, calling his name.
Driver said his favorite memory was when he ran out of the tunnel during Super Bowl XLV and later holding up the Vince Lombardi trophy.
At least right now, Driver does not plan to coach. He wants to spend more time with his family. Driver said he’s been preparing himself for life after playing football. He’ll be co-hosting Katie Couric’s show soon; he’s coming out with a book in September; and he’ll be working with Chris Powell on “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.”
“It’s been an awesome, awesome ride,” Driver said. “Now it’s time for the next chapter.”