The end of the NFL Combine is upon us, so being in Wisconsin, I’m looking back at how a former participant with lofty goals and dreams went about his business, was selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft and experienced a career that many first-rounders never see.
Earlier this month, Donald Driver officially retired from the NFL after 14 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. That he played with just one team throughout his career is a story in itself in this day of free agency – and a result of a promise that he made to Packers fans. He long said that he never wanted to wear another uniform and in his retirement speech, said, “I keep my promise to you. The loyalty you all have instilled in me and my family, I have to keep my loyalty to you and not to play for another team and to retire in the green and gold.”
Driver played long and hard with the Packers organization and may have well made a positive impact on another team in 2013, but he made and kept a pledge to one of the most loyal sports fan bases in the world. The gratitude, community generosity and of course his success on the field ensures that the love between Driver and Packers fans will live on long after someone new occupies his old locker at Lambeau Field.
Should we expect that from every professional athlete? No. It’s simply not feasible. Professional sports is a business and people are well, people: some set records, resonate with fans and are exulted, while others behave badly and pay for it with tarnished reputations and hits to the pocketbook. But when a highly successful athlete works hard, gives back to his team’s community, wins, says positive things AND lives up to his words, it’s a story.
Driver and the Packers have moved on, but they will always be part of one anothers’ lives.