Donald Driver announces he will be retiring from the Packers after 14 years

By
Updated: January 31, 2013
donald-driver

Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver announced on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” Thursday that he is retiring after 14 seasons.

“I’m going to officially put the cleats on the shelf. I’m going to walk away from the game,” the four-time Pro Bowler said.

The Packers announced that he will take part in a formal news conference at Lambeau Field on Feb. 6 at 12 a.m. ET

“I played my entire career in Green Bay and have always enjoyed a special bond with the fans,” Driver said in a statement released by the team. “I can think of no better way to retire than to celebrate with them and the Packers organization.”

Fans are invited to attend Driver’s retirement news conference and tickets will be distributed free of charge.

“I’m going to open my retirement up to the fans … give them everything they deserve,” Driver told ESPN Radio.

Taken in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL draft out of Alcorn State, the 37-year-old Driver retires as the Packers’ all-time leader in receptions (743) and yards (10,137). He also had 61 touchdown receptions (third on Packers’ all-time list) in 205 career games, all with the Packers.

Driver’s Packers Receiving Ranks
Donald Driver retires atop the Packers’ all-time list for receptions and receiving yards. And only Don Hutson (99) and Sterling Sharpe (65) had more TD catches than Driver.

Category Stats Rank
Receptions 743 1st
Yards 10,137 1st
TD 61 3rd
– ESPN Stats & Information

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.

Only Brett Favre played more games in a Packers uniform.

“All 14 years. Every day,” Driver told ESPN Radio. “That’s a special place to walk out of, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”

He had seven 1,000-yard seasons, also a Packers record for a receiver. 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 turns 38 on Saturday.

It wasn’t just his performance on the field that made Driver one of the most beloved players in Packers history. Fans were charmed by his bright smile and infectious laugh, and moved by his story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. 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.

Driver never forgot that tough childhood, remaining active in the community throughout his career.

“His contribution to the history of the Green Bay Packers has been extraordinary,” Bart Starr said in the Packers’ statement. “I am honored to congratulate him on all of his achievements on and off the field.”

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 with Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb ahead of him on the depth chart. Driver’s eight catches for 77 yards were his lowest totals since his rookie season, and he was inactive for four games, including the NFC wild-card, his final game at Lambeau Field.

“It’s always difficult, especially when you feel you can still play the game,” Driver told ESPN Radio. “There’s other things out there. There’s the next chapter of your career and I’m ready for it.”

Driver said he is eager to spend more time with his family. Driver and his wife, Bettina, have three kids.

“Someone is always going to be able to tell my kids that their dad was a great football player,” Driver told ESPN Radio. “But no one will be able to tell my kids that their dad was a great dad and a great husband, so I have to be able to show them that.”