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Mike Vandermause column: This chapter's closed, but book isn't finished on Driver

Feb. 6, 2013
 

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Former Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver greets fans after his retirement ceremony Wednesday at Lambeau Field. / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media

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Donald Driver watched intently as the video highlights from his 14-year career with the Green Bay Packers flashed Wednesday on the giant screen at the Lambeau Field Atrium during his formal retirement ceremony.

Driver’s pose was stoic, his demeanor bordering on somber.

It was only a few moments during an hourlong public event that included smiles, hugs, tears, cheers, fond recollections and the undying support of a thousand Packers fans in attendance.

But it was clear from the look on Driver’s face, as he saw his career unfold before his eyes, that he truly would miss playing for the Packers.

“I think the most thing I’m going to miss is running out that tunnel and 70,000 cheering you on every time you catch a ball, you make a (play), and they’re screaming your name,” Driver would say later. “That’s what I’m going to miss.”

Every professional athlete struggles with the transition into retirement. Some handle it better than others.

After years of structure, suddenly the practices, workouts, meetings and games are gone. The camaraderie with teammates slips away. The accountability to coaches no is longer required. The Sunday adrenaline rush evaporates.

Driver knows he must leave that part of his life behind. It happens to every player.

Some recognize it and walk into the sunset on their terms, while others are dragged kicking and screaming from the game.

After 14 productive years with the Packers, Driver falls into the former category. But unlike many of his contemporaries, Driver has a chance to flourish in retirement.

“As far as the struggling part after football, I won’t struggle,” Driver said. “I’ve got so many things I’ve prepared myself for after football.”

The best thing a retired player can have is a reason to get out of bed every morning. Driver will keep himself busy with some upcoming TV projects, and a book about his life is scheduled to be published in the fall.

“I’m ready for whatever comes next,” he said. “I think God has a plan for me. Football was just a starting point. I’m ready to follow whatever God has next.”

His most immediate task, at the request of his wife, Betina, is to get rid of the squirrels in the attic of their Dallas home.

After that, Driver ruled out coaching. He also said in no uncertain terms he would not come out of retirement and play for another team.

“Even though I feel that I can still play the game ... I have to retire as a Green Bay Packer,” Driver pledged.

“I owe it to the fans and to this fine organization not to tarnish the legacy that they have established in me and my family.”

In return for that loyalty, the city of Green Bay will name a street after Driver and dedicate the receiver statue in front of Titletown Brewery in his honor.

Driver’s legacy remains secure, which is only fitting for the Packers’ all-time leading pass catcher who captured a special place in the hearts of fans, teammates and coaches alike.

That was never more evident than when the normally stone-faced Packers coach Mike McCarthy teared up as he was describing what Driver meant to him.

“I’m talking about the husband,” McCarthy said. “I’m talking about the father. I’m talking about the friend. He’s given a tremendous amount to our organization and will continue.”

And then, as if speaking for everyone with a connection to the Packers, McCarthy closed with three simple words:

“Thank you Donald.”

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
572 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
852 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1011 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1268 votes

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