NEW ORLEANS – No other uniform would fit Donald Driver.
The Green Bay Packers all-time leading receiver announced his retirement Thursday morning, with a public ceremony planned for Feb. 6 at the Lambeau Field Atrium.
“I’ve always said I never want to wear another uniform. I’ve always said that I owe it to the fans to retire as a Packer,” Driver said. “I feel like I can still play, but if I can’t play for my organization, then I can’t play for anyone else.”
Driver was selected to four Pro Bowls in 14 seasons, was Green Bay’s MVP in 2002 and was part of the team that won the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.
Only Brett Favre played more games in a Packers uniform.
Drafted by Green Bay in the seventh round of the 1999 draft, Driver became one of the most popular and prolific Packers. He had six straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2004-09, averaging 14 yards per catch during the stretch. He made at least one catch in 133 straight games from 2002 to 2010, another franchise record.
He’s one of only 18 wide receivers in NFL history with 700-plus career catches and 10,000 or more receiving yards in 200 games.
Growing up, Driver and his family were so poor that he, his mother and siblings sometimes spent the nights in a U-Haul. He and his brother stole cars to get money, and Driver sold drugs, too.
Packers fans embraced him – his jersey is a popular sight at Lambeau Field, right up there with Rodgers’ No. 12 and Clay Matthews’ No. 52 – and he happily returned the love. He’s been active in the community throughout his career and said that won’t change. His annual community softball game will be played June 16.
“That’s my second home,” Driver said. “I’m born and raised in Houston, Texas, but Wisconsin is always going to be a home for me, and I’ll always be back.’
Though Driver had said he hoped to play until he was 40 – he turns 38 on Saturday – his retirement was hardly a surprise. He had restructured the final year of his contract to come back this season, but played only a bit role in the offense.
While Driver may be retiring, there will still be plenty to keep him busy. He’s got a book coming out in September, and will appear on “Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition.” The “Dancing with the Stars” champion is also exploring possibilities in broadcasting, and would be open to a hybrid of sports and entertainment, similar to what former New York Giants linebacker Michael Strahan has done.
But no matter what he does, he’ll always be part of the Packers.
“It means the world. Not too many guys get to play for one organization,” Driver said. “What I feel like I’ve done on and off the field has truly been a blessing.”