IRVING, TEXAS – A Super Bowl is big enough to make a grown man cry.
After 12 seasons of trying, Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver has finally made it to the NFL’s largest stage.
It’s been the culmination of a lifelong dream for Driver, so no one was surprised when he became emotional following the Packers’ victory over the Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game that gave them a berth in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I don’t know if he shed any tears, I didn’t see that,” said fellow receiver James Jones. “He may have shed them when he got home. He was very emotional.”
When you’ve sacrificed your body for as long as Driver has in the rough-and-tumble NFL, who can blame him for getting a little choked up?
“After the championship game, emotions got the best of him, as they should,” said receiver Greg Jennings. “I mean it’s been a long time for him.”
Driver, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Wednesday, has been around long enough to become the Packers’ all-time leading pass catcher, but what he really wants is a Super Bowl championship ring. And his teammates want badly to see him achieve that goal.
“We go out there and we put it on the line for that guy because we know how much it means to him,” said Jones.
Jennings calls Driver one of the most underrated and under-appreciated receivers in the NFL. What he admires about him is his work ethic, leadership skills and team-first attitude.
“You can’t replace a guy like that,” said Jennings.
Driver has his teammates’ backs, whether it’s an up and coming receiver threatening his job or a young quarterback learning the ropes.
“He’s just a great person on and off the field and he’ll do whatever he can to help you,” said third-year receiver Jordy Nelson. “He’s not trying to bully you and he’s not thinking like, ‘Oh, this guy might take my spot in the future.’ It’s all about the team with him.”
Driver was on the receiving end of Brett Favre passes for nine seasons and developed a special chemistry with the legendary quarterback. But when the Packers changed starters in 2008, Driver didn’t hesitate to throw his full support to Aaron Rodgers.
“All you can ask from a veteran player is just get in your corner,” said Rodgers. “And Donald has gotten in my corner since I’ve been here. Since I became the starter he’s been very supportive.”
Driver doesn’t hide his fondness for his receiving mates.
“One thing about our group of guys is that I love ’em dearly,” he said. “They have made me appreciate what I am today.
“We embrace each other as one.”
Driver’s willingness to work has left a lasting impression.
“He wouldn’t miss a practice,” marveled Jones. “Coach was like, 'Drive, I’ll sit you out a play.' He wouldn’t want to miss a play. Just how he worked and how he prepared to be the kind of receiver he is today, as a young guy you can’t do better than to follow that.”
Driver was listed on the Packers’ injury report Thursday with a re-occurrence of a quad injury, although coach Mike McCarthy said he would be fine. It would likely take a broken leg to keep Driver out of the biggest game of his life.
What you see is what you get with Driver.
“I don’t go behind closed doors and change who I am,” he said on Thursday.
“I love to have fun and I love to interact with the fans and the media. You have to embrace it because when it is all said and done, you don’t want people to say that he was a jerk. You want them to say that he was good guy. To me that is what I stand for.”
Driver has a vision of standing in Cowboys Stadium Sunday night with the Lombardi Trophy hoisted above his head.
“I think that’s when it’s really going to hit me,” he said.
That’s when the tears would flow for all the world to see.