NEW ORLEANS––The last member of the Green Bay Packers to announce his retirement to this much fanfare and attention actually ended up playing for the division rival across the state border.
Packers fans know the story intimately by now. Brett Favre announced his retirement, although never officially signed any documents, and then un-retired only to be traded to the New York Jets and eventually sign with the Minnesota Vikings.
But Donald Driver, who the Packers announced will be holding a retirement press conference next Wednesday at Lambeau Field, said he's not interested in playing for the Vikings, or any other team for that matter.
"I would never play for a rival team. I never would," said Driver in an exclusive interview with Cheesehead TV at the site of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. "There's always going to be interest, that's part of the game. There's going to be teams out there that want you to be part of your career, and you want to be part of theirs. But the only part of a career of somebody I wanted to be with was the green and gold."
The Favre saga is nearly common knowledge to even the most passive of football fans. Since spurning his old team for the Vikings, he has divided an entire fan base. The line between friend and foe is still a blurry one.
Whether Driver has learned a lesson from his former quarterback is open to interpretation, but based upon his comments, Driver has no intention of putting Packers fans through a similar ordeal.
"I wouldn't put them through the stress. That's wrong," said Driver. "They have been supportive to me through all these years. There's no way I would treat them wrong. They always have been great to me. I need to be great to them."
Driver is calling it quits at 37 years old after 14 years in the NFL, the first nine of them with Favre as his teammate.
To be sure, Favre was a big part of the reason Driver was able to become the franchise's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. Since Favre departed Green Bay, however, Driver won his first and only Super Bowl with the Packers in 2011 and with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.
Ever confident, Driver feels he can still play the game, and in fact, is willing to continue playing should the Packers decide they want him back.
"I'm not going to come out of retirement, unless it's for my own team," said Driver. "If they want me back, then I'm willing to come back. If not, then I'm willing to put the cleats up and walk away."
The celebrity of Donald Driver grew by leaps and bounds this past offseason when he competed in and won ABC's reality television show Dancing With The Stars, through which he gained a following that transcended football. Along with professional dancing partner Peta Murgatroyd, he won the Mirror Ball Trophy.
"The people that know me, that know football, I'll always be remembered for football," said Driver. "The women and the men that know dancing, they'll always remember me for dancing. A lot of women don't watch football, but they do watch Dancing With the Stars. I'll take either one of them."
Driver will finish his career with 743 regular season receptions for 10,137 yards and 61 touchdowns. He came to Green Bay as a seventh-round draft choice out of Alcorn State in 1999.
The way Driver came from relative obscurity as highly regarded college high jumper but underrated football player is part of the reason he's gained the respect of former Vikings receiver and current ESPN analyst Cris Carter, an opponent of Driver in the late nineties and early 2000s.
"Donald, I call him a professional receiver," said Carter. "There's a lot of receivers in the NFL, but he's what I call a professional. He's come from humble beginnings. He's utilized his opportunity in Green Bay to play 14 years for that franchise, great franchise."
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss who earlier this week proclaimed himself as the greatest receiver of all-time and will be shooting for his first Super Bowl ring this Sunday, wouldn't put Driver in the same category but did express his admiration for veteran Packers wideout.
"All time ranking? I don't really know. There's a lot of receivers ahead of him," said Moss. "I just think he did some phenomenal things up there in Green Bay in their offense. Like I said, he worked with Brett Favre, he worked with Aaron Rodgers. Playing with those two quarterbacks, man, you've got nothing to do but succeed. My hat's off to him."
Driver will announce his retirement on Wednesday Feb. 6 at 11:00 a.m. local time in an event open to the public inside the Lambeau Field atrium, an idea Driver claimed as his own.
Hear more from Donald Driver in his exclusive interview with Cheesehead TV...
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Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and an editor at Cheesehead TV. To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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