Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver answers reporters' questions in the media auditorium at Lambeau Field, Monday, January 24, 2011. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette
Donald Driver casually walked into the Lambeau Field auditorium Monday afternoon with both rows of teeth visible to everyone in the room. The Packers wide receiver stood behind the podium and gave a hearty “good morning” to the media members that had come from all over the country.
His welcome was momentarily greeted with silence, but it was evident the man at the microphone was in a good mood.
“You know, I haven't even done anything,” Driver said about the hours since clinching a Super Bowl berth. “I think it's still one of those things you're dreaming about it that you're in. You know, woke up this morning and gave my wife and kids a kiss before they headed back to Dallas.
“It was just crazy because my wife said, babe, we're in the Super Bowl. And I was like, it hasn't hit me yet.”
The enormity of qualifying for the first Super Bowl in Driver’s 12-year career may still be sinking in, but that didn’t take away the fact he woke up with the most significant opportunity in his career two weeks away.
Driver used the word “dream” several times between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, but said he never gave up on it. The Packers advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs just twice during his career, including last week.
“I don’t know if you get any doubt,” Driver said. “I think you get to a point where it’s hard to get here, and once you get in, then you just say hey, I’ve got to win it all.”
Left tackle Chad Clifton is living the same scenario. He was selected by the Packers out of the University of Tennessee in the second round of 2000, one year after Driver.
Both have had moments this season when their age and ability were questioned. Driver was held without a catch for two weeks in a row – which snapped a franchise-record 133 consecutive games with a reception - and was then inactive against the Cowboys in Week 9 because of a quad injury.
Clifton started all 16 games this year, but was benched for rookie Bryan Bulaga in Week 2 against Buffalo for his erratic play due to bad knees.
“The Buffalo game was kind of a low point for me for this season just with the knee injury,” Clifton said. “But, hey, I was able to bounce back from that and come in and play some good football and so was the team.
“You try not to take anything for granted. Like I've stated previously there's been a lot of guys … that have never made it a the Super Bowl. So you don't take these things for granted. We're fortunate.”
It’s no surprise the Packers as a whole are somewhat living vicariously through Driver and Clifton. Though John Kuhn, Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett are the only three players on the roster to make it to a Super Bowl – and Kuhn was on the practice squad with the Steelers – there’s a feeling of accomplishment throughout the locker room in sending the two veterans to their first title game.
“It meant a lot,” Kuhn said. “You could see it on the faces of those guys. They've been through some struggles, some really close calls in 2007 and other playoff games.
“To see them finally get to go to a Super Bowl, it's pretty special.”