Where to start with Donald Driver?
How about the start.
Entering the 1999 draft, the Green Bay Packers needed a wide receiver. Antonio Freeman was the established star and was coming off an 84-catch season. Bill Schroeder had flashed potential. Robert Brooks was finished. Derrick Mayes, a second-round pick in 1996, hadn't done much. Corey Bradford, a fifth-round pick in 1998, caught all of three passes as a rookie. Led by Schroeder's 31 catches, those four combined for 95 receptions.
So, general manager Ron Wolf went out and got ... Ohio State's Dee Miller.
And, in a pick acquired from the Bears in a trade for Glyn Milburn, Wolf used the team's final pick on Driver.
Driver was the 25th of 30 receivers selected in that draft. He was the survivor, outlasting all of them by a wide margin. Miller never played a game in the NFL. Torry Holt, the sixth pick of that draft, was the runner-up on the longevity list, making it through 2009.
"It is unbelievable," Driver said in the Cover Story for Packer Report Magazine before the 2010 season. "You think about all the guys they drafted before me. You look at all these guys' careers and what some have accomplished and what some haven't accomplished, and I look at what I've accomplished, and I'm happy about it."
The road to stardom didn't come quickly for Quickie. General manager Ted Thompson, a scout with the team in 1999, remembers Driver as someone who was a "really good gunner" on the punt team. Driver caught 37 passes and scored three touchdowns in his first three seasons. Then came 2002. The Packers parted ways with Freeman and Schroeder and handed the No. 1 role to a string bean with an unrelenting passion to succeed.
He caught 70 passes for 1,064 yards and nine touchdowns. It would be the first of his seven 70-catch, 1,000-yard seasons, and the first of his three Pro Bowls. From 2004 through 2009, only Driver and Reggie Wayne had 1,000 receiving yards in each season.
Father Time never loses but Driver put up one hell of a battle. When he was 30, he caught 86 passes for 1,221 yards. Between ages 30 and 34, he averaged 80.8 catches and scored 26 touchdowns.
On Thursday, Driver called it quits. He ranks 37th overall and 10th among active players with 743 receptions, and 38th overall and eighth among active players with 10,137 receiving yards. He's eighth among active players with 61 touchdown catches. He has 148 more receptions and 481 more receiving yards than anyone in franchise history.
"He's just so tough physically," Hall of Famer James Lofton, the franchise's former leader in receiving yards, said a couple years ago. "He's built himself into a receiver who can take a lot of hits but also a guy that's really good after the catch. He's just a strong, physical presence. He's obviously played with some good quarterbacks but at the same time he's made them look good."
Considering where he came from — a track guy with 68 career catches at off-the-radar Alcorn State — Goodwill could hardly have picked a better spokesman for its "Believe in the Power of Work" campaign.
"That's me all the way," Driver said for our Cover Story. "I think that's why they allowed me to be a part of their family is because I believe in what they believe. I believe hard work pays off. My thing was, when everyone else was sleeping, I was still working. To this day, I still believe that.
"As I get up in age, I have to work more than the young guys that I have in my receiving group. They're young, they have a bright future and I feel like I have to continue to prove myself. I think year in and year out, no one has ever put me on top of a pedestal, and I don't care for that. I don't care to be up there. When I play the game, I play at a high level. Every year, I feel like I have to prove myself, regardless of whether it was when I came in 1999 or I'm here in 2010. I still have to prove myself as being one of the best receivers in the National Football League. That's what I have to do, and when it's all said and done, I'm hoping that someone would give me the credit and say he was one of the best players ever."
That credit will come on Wednesday, when Driver rightfully basks in the fans' cheers one more time.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.