Photo by Courtesy Flickr/Jeff Kern
The Green Bay Packers drafted 24 wide receivers before selecting Donald Driver with the 213th pick of the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft. The Alcorn State player ended up being one of the best late-round finds of that draft.
In addition to playing football, Driver was a track star at Alcorn State, winning the SWAC's Athlete of the Year award three years in a row. He participated in the high jump, decathlon, long jump and triple jump. If he had chosen to focus on track, there is a good chance that Driver would have been on the 2000 United States Olympic team in the high jump at the Sydney, Australia games.
Instead, Driver finished his college career in football with 88 receptions for 1,932 yards with 17 touchdowns. He also earned a bachelor's degree in accounting.
Overall, there were 30 wide receivers taken in the 1999 NFL Draft. Driver has played longer than all of them except one, Brandon Stokley, currently a member of the Denver Broncos. Driver put up better numbers than any receiver except for Tory Holt of the St. Louis Rams.
The Alcorn alumnus, who is retiring this year at age 38, will finish his pro career with 10,137 receiving yards on 734 catches (both the highest in Packers' history) with 61 touchdowns receiving and one rushing touchdown. The 61 touchdown catches puts Driver in third place behind Don Hutson (99 TD catches) and Sterling Sharpe (65 TD catches) in Packers' history.
Former Green Bay running back Ahman Green holds the franchise record for most total yards from scrimmage, but Driver is second with 10,354 yards (217 rushing yards). Driver is finishing his career with the most 1,000-yard receiving seasons in Packers history with seven, including a franchise record six straight from 2004 to 2009.
Only Brett Favre played more games than Driver, with 255 to Driver's 205. Driver holds a franchise record for 50 or more receptions in a season. His biggest victory came in Super Bowl XLV, when the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.
Driver might best be remembered on the field for his 61-yard touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 5, 2010, at Lambeau Field. The receiver broke three tackles on his way to the end zone and ran over four 49ers standing in his way.
Overcoming long odds and obstacles was nothing new for Driver. The Houston native lived part of his childhood in a U-Haul truck after a collection agency took most of his family's possessions.
Driver's childhood partly inspired him to become involved in community events. Along with several other awards and recognitions for his extensive charitable works, he received the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2002.
In 2000, Driver created the Donald Driver Foundation (donalddriverfoundation.com) with the motto "Strong Hands, Strong Minds, Loving Hearts." The Foundation offers assistance to homeless mothers and underprivileged children, and scholarships to kids in Mississippi, Texas and Wisconsin.
Driver won the 14th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in May 2012 along with partner Peta Murgatroyd and has written three children's books.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared it "Donald Driver Day" and Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt presented Driver with a key to the city, when he officially announced his retirement last week.
Schmitt also announced that the famous receiver statue that used to reside in front of the old Packers Hall of Fame--now in front of the downtown Titletown Brewing Co. restaurant--will be refurbished, with the receiver wearing Driver's No. 80 jersey. The street leading to the statue and restaurant will be renamed "Donald Driver Way."