GRAND CHUTE, Wis.--Green Bay Packers fans showed their love, support and appreciation for Donald Driver by helping him win the most recent season of ABC's Dancing With The Stars through their voting.
But the admiration they have for the veteran wide receiver was palpable at Fox Cities Stadium near Appleton on Sunday for the fifth annual Donald Driver Celebrity Softball Game as a sold-out crowd of 8,745 fans showed up, a record for the event.
In fact, according to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it's partially because of Driver's pop culture and cult hero status that influenced the decision for the Packers to restructure his contract to help keep him in Green Bay.
"It's got to," said Rodgers. "You hear the response today, and I think him winning the Mirrorball (the trophy awarded to the Dancing With The Stars champion) was directly related to the kind of voting I'm sure the state of Wisconsin did for him. He's been a Packer for life, and it's going to be good to see him finish his career in Green Bay and hopefully send him off the right way."
Driver's annual charity softball game not only came on the heels of his reality television show triumph, it also came just days after Driver reportedly agreed to a renegotiated one-year contract that included a cut in pay.
For his part, Driver has maintained he's just happy his career will end as a member of the Packers.
"I didn’t think I was relieved," said Driver. "I mean, I had no worries. You just get to a point where decisions have to be made and the good thing about it is we’ve got a sellout crowd here today and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We just have to make sure we beat the defense. That’s the biggest thing."
Beat the defense, they did, behind the strength of an inside-the-park home run by the event's namesake and two more over-the-fence variety by Rodgers.
The Packers offense beat the Packers defense 22 to 10 in a game that was far from taken seriously.
But what was taken seriously was the fundraising for the Donald Driver Foundation that funds college scholarships and helps underprivileged families. Driver estimated that $200,000 was raised by the event.
Also a testament to Driver's popularity were the 48 teammates that were listed as participating or attending the softball game, many of whom took time to sign autographs and take part in sideline antics throughout the afternoon.
One more special guest was in attendance, Driver's professional dancing partner Peta Murgatroyd, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch and helped coach the offense.
"It’s out of this world," said Murgatroyd. "I haven’t seen anything like this before. It’s crazy. It feels so good to have the support of Packer nation, Wisconsin, everybody, it’s just been great."
From here, Driver's attention will turn to the football field and what he can do to help out the Packers.
He'll finish up organized team activities and minicamp in Green Bay during the month of June and then visit Murgatroyd's native Australia before training camp starts.
But once training camp starts, Driver's focus will strictly be between the white lines.
With such a deep and young corps of wide receivers, Driver knows he's not the primary target on the team anymore. He just wants to help the team win.
"The good thing I love about it is, it’s not all dependent on me anymore," said Driver. "I think the first eight, nine years of my career, it was all dependent on me making plays and winning games.
"Now, we’ve got a group of receivers who are unbelievable. Now, the ball is spread around, and I may not get 60, 70 catches. And I’m OK with that."
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