NEW ORLEANS — No other uniform would fit Donald Driver.

The Green Bay Packers all-time leading receiver announced his retirement Thursday morning, with a public ceremony planned for Feb. 6 at the Lambeau Field Atrium.

"I've always said I never want to wear another uniform. I've always said that I owe it to the fans to retire as a Packer," Driver said. "I feel like I can still play, but if I can't play for my organization, then I can't play for anyone else."

Driver finishes his 14-year career as Green Bay's all-time leader in yards receiving (10,137 yards), catches (743) and 1,000-yard seasons (seven), and is third behind Don Hutson and Sterling Sharpe with 61 touchdown receptions. A four-time Pro Bowler, he was Green Bay's MVP in 2002 and was part of the team that won the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.

Only Brett Favre played more games in a Packers uniform.

"All 14 years. Every day," Driver said in an interview on ESPN's "Mike & Mike" when asked what his favorite memory is. "That's a special place to walk out of, and that's something I'll never forget."

Drafted by Green Bay in the seventh round of the 1999 draft, Driver became one of the most popular and prolific Packers. He had six straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2004-09, averaging 14 yards per catch during the stretch. He made at least one catch in 133 straight games from 2002 to 2010, another franchise record.

He's one of only 18 wide receivers in NFL history with 700-plus career catches and 10,000 or more receiving yards in 200 games.

"It was a pleasure to share the field with you for 4 years! Great player, tremendous person. (hash)retire80," offensive guard T.J. Lang said on Twitter.

Aaron Rodgers added, "Thanks for the memories quickie, you will be missed (hash)Packer4Life."

Quickie is Driver's childhood nickname.

Green Bay fans have a close bond with every Packers player, but they had a particular soft spot for Driver. They loved his bright smile and infectious laugh, and were moved by his story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Growing up, Driver and his family were so poor that he, his mother and siblings sometimes spent the nights in a U-Haul. He and his brother stole cars to get money, and Driver sold drugs, too.

Packers fans embraced him — his jersey is a popular sight at Lambeau Field, right up there with Rodgers' No. 12 and Clay Matthews' No. 52 — and he happily returned the love. He's been active in the community throughout his career and said that won't change. His annual community softball game will be played June 16.

"That's my second home," Driver said. "I'm born and raised in Houston, Texas, but Wisconsin is always going to be a home for me, and I'll always be back.'

Though Driver had said he hoped to play until he was 40 — he turns 38 on Saturday — his retirement was hardly a surprise. He had restructured the final year of his contract to come back this season, but played only a bit role in the offense with Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb ahead of him on the depth chart. Driver's eight catches for 77 yards were his lowest totals since his rookie season, and he was inactive for four games, including the NFC wild-card, his final game at Lambeau Field.

Though coach Mike McCarthy didn't say as much during their postseason meeting, Driver knew he wasn't in the Packers plans for next season.

"I just kind of knew in his eyes," Driver said. "When you've known a guy for so long and you're friends, it's hard for him to tell you that they're not going to bring me back. I just kind of looked at him and I just kind of knew that that's what they were going to do."

And that made his decision easy.

Minnesota reportedly had interest in Driver, and he said he thinks there would have been other teams that wanted him, too. But he wasn't going to play for anyone besides the Packers, a decision supported by his wife Bettina and their three children.

"Do I feel like I can still play? Yes," he said. "But at the end of the day, I owe it to the fans to put the cleats up. I promised them years ago that I would never wear nothing but green and gold, so I owe it to them to walk away."

Driver also didn't want to put the Packers in a tough spot, having watched them go through their messy divorce with Brett Favre.

"I just wanted to make it easy on the organization, not put any pressure on them," Driver said. "Just be able to walk away on my own terms and not have them say, 'We're not going to bring you back.'"

Instead, the Packers are hosting his retirement party next week. Driver's formal announcement will be made in the Lambeau Field Atrium, and there are a limited number of free tickets for fans available on a first-come, first-served basis.

"I'm happy with the decision I made," Driver said. "It will be a little tougher on Feb. 6. I'm going to get emotional. I'm trying not to get too emotional today, but Feb. 6 I know will be emotional."

While Driver may be retiring, there will still be plenty to keep him busy. He's got a book coming out in September, and will appear on "Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition." The "Dancing with the Stars" champion is also exploring possibilities in broadcasting, and would be open to a hybrid of sports and entertainment, similar to what former New York Giants linebacker Michael Strahan has done.

But no matter what he does, he'll always be part of the Packers.

"It means the world. Not too many guys get to play for one organization," Driver said. "What I feel like I've done on and off the field has truly been a blessing."

You might also like

(15) comments

bluecollarallthetime
bluecollarallthetime

Thanks for the memories you sir are a class individual.

LiveForward
LiveForward

Donald Driver cares about football, his community and kids! What an amazing career and amazing person. Gifted in so many ways, he inspires us all to be the best we can be.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Donald Driver is probably the only guy in Wisconsin who could unite all the disparate commenters on the madison.com message boards.

Great career, Donald! I hope life smiles back at you the same way you smiled at it!

RecessionSux
RecessionSux

Godspeed our blessed friend.

iponder
iponder

Favre will be there, right?

JayterTater
JayterTater

Thanks for the many years of outstanding play and even higher character Donald! I bought your jersey and will forever wear it with pride. The best to you always!

Davisra
Davisra

Wish we lived closer to Green Bay so we could join the party on Wednesday. Here's hoping he can be introduced at a home game next season so more fans have the chance to give him the recognition & standing ovation he so richly deserves. Thanks for being such a great role model, Donald. Hope to see you on TV - you'd make a great addition to the broadcast crews!

GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN
GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN

Diitos.

And, pleeeeeeeease Donald, no more prancing with stars.

I don't care if all the politically correct elitists in professional sports call you a "Cornbread Brother", you shouldn't either. Most of us see you as the real deal, a real American, no hyphen.

We need more wholesome role models like you. Our community needs guys like Russel Wilson, Robert Griffen III and Colin Kaepernick to reflect the truth. Family, faith hard work.

We see you by the content of your character. Radical idea.

Say Cheese and flash that million dollar smile one last time, dog.

Godspeed.

Good Dog, Happy Man.


spooky tooth
spooky tooth

You can't say anything without spoiling it.

Grandpa
Grandpa

It has always been a pleasure to watch a class act such as Donald play the game. I think we all knew at the beginning of the season this was most likely going to be Drivers his last year as a Green Bay Packer. What saddens me most is MM couldn't find at least 1 person on the active roster that he could have done without so Donald could have suited up one last time at home and be given the opportunity to receive a standing ovation as he left the field much the way Reggie did his last game as a Packer.

AllAmerican11B
AllAmerican11B

He may have chosen to end his career on the field but I bet we'll be seeing him in the public eye plenty!!! Personally I think I'd like to see him in Hollywood, the man really knows how to use his personality in front of a camera and the camera seems to like him. Maybe a completely new generation James Bond, Indiana Jones, Captain Kirk, etc...! He definitely should be on the "classy good guy" side but absolutely NO Sit-Coms, LOL!!!

Acapitalidea
Acapitalidea

Just keep him in Green Bay.

Observer5
Observer5

Much better than the way Favre went about it.

Cornelius Gotchberg
Cornelius Gotchberg

This is bitterseet news. Driver is a class act all the way; a real throw-back in that sense. Those that play his position aren't generally for their caliber of character.

That's not to say there haven't been better (i.e. Randy Moss; just ask him) or more productive (the talented Mr. Rice) receivers, but one would be hard pressed to match up with his undeniably genuine presense. He'd been around to see the good, the bad, AND the ugly, yet all the while flashing that mega-watt million dollar smile.

It would have been difficult to see him in Wannabe Viking purple; them getting Sharper, Longwell, & Little Lord Favreleroy was enough. It's great to see a one team guy retire that way; in the Green-n-Gold!

Good luck Mr. Driver, and thanks for the memories.

The Gotch

Eileen Wright
Eileen Wright

You said it all.
We will miss Donald Driver. Happy retirement!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Exchange ideas and opinions on posted articles. Don't promote products or services, impersonate other site users, register multiple accounts, threaten or harass others, post vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language. Don't post content that defames or degrades anyone. Don't repost copyrighted material; link to it. In other words, stick to the topic and play nice. Report abuses by clicking the button. Users who break the rules will be banned from commenting. We no longer issue warnings. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.