Photo courtesy of Green Bay Packers
It’s one brief story in a career of stories, one little play in a lifetime of plays. But it tells so much about the man who, with today’s retirement ceremony at Lambeau Field, celebrates his storied career as a playmaker.
Donald Driver scored 61 touchdowns in his 14 years with the Green Bay Packers. It might have been 62, but on an early-November afternoon last year, he gave one away.
Down in the Green Bay Packers locker room, players were celebrating a 31-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, and the man of the hour was Randall Cobb. He caught Green Bay’s first two touchdown passes that day, and as the media gathered around the young wide receiver, he explained how the first one came courtesy of an altruistic Driver.
The Packers had the ball on Arizona’s 13-yard line and were lining up in a formation with three wide receivers, including two out to the right. It was designed as a wide receiver screen to that right side, with the ball going to the outermost man while the inside receiver threw a downfield block. Driver was supposed to be the outermost receiver.
“I was playing inside on that play,” Cobb said, “and when we broke the huddle, I was getting ready to line up, and [Driver] pushed me out and said, ‘Go ahead and go get it, kid.”
Cobb got it. Driver blocked it. Cobb scored it.
When it was all over, Cobb, somewhat confused by Driver’s audible, sought out the veteran on the sideline for an explanation. Driver’s response? He knew Cobb would get the TD.
“That shows you how much of a team player he is,” Cobb said, “and how great he is for this organization.”
Cobb’s locker was within whispering distance of Driver’s. The locker of fellow budding receiver James Jones was adjacent to Driver’s. Why, some folks wondered, did the Packers bring an aging Driver back last season when his skills were so clearly diminished? Maybe because not all of a young player’s growth happens on the practice field.
“He’s been a great help to me,” Cobb said in front of his locker that day, “not only as a player, but as a person here.”
Once upon a time, Driver was a young receiver like Cobb, albeit one with far less hype. Cobb was a second-round draft pick. Driver was a seventh-rounder and practically an afterthought. But Driver remembers well his rookie year in 1999 and a particular scene from the preseason Family Night scrimmage. He was in the Lambeau Field tunnel waiting for it to start, and in front of him was Brett Favre. “Brett looked back at me,” Driver recalls, “and Brett said, ‘You ready for this?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know yet.’”
Fourteen years later, it turns out he was plenty ready. And now, he’s ready for the memories. “I think it snowballs into one big picture,” Driver said after that 2012 game against the Cardinals. “I think it all comes together. I’ve been here a long time.”
His legacy will be there even longer. It’s the unlikeliest stories that always seem to have such resonance. Driver was not supposed to become the most prolific receiver in Green Bay history. As a seventh-round draft pick out of Alcorn State, he wasn’t even supposed to make the team. And given his oft-troubled upbringing, he probably wasn’t supposed to play college football, either. And surely he wasn’t supposed to dance with the stars, much less beat them. Yet here he stands, looking back on all that and so much more.
Makes you wonder what he’ll do next that wasn’t supposed to be done.
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