The Driver transcript: 4,500 words of memories

Team president and CEO Mark Murphy

I want to first thank all the fans for coming out today. I know a lot of you waited in line in the cold to get your tickets and you waited this morning, so give yourselves a round of applause.

It’s always a little bittersweet when a great player’s career ends like Donald’s. But this is just special day. It’s a great day for the Packers, great day for Donald and it’s also a great time to celebrate not only Donald’s retirement and the great career that he had, but as (emcee) Larry (McCarren) mentioned, he is truly not only a special player, but more importantly a special person.

First, Donald, I want to thank you for all you’ve done for the organization and for the Green Bay community during your career. I would also be remiss if I didn’t give special thanks to Betina. I know being the wife of a professional football player is challenging, but you are very, very important part of the great success that Donald has enjoyed.

I think it’s really fitting that we’re’ having this retirement ceremony in a public forum in front of fans. During my time here in Green Bay, I really haven’t seen a player that has a had a better connection, more of a special connection with the fans than Donald, and it’s really fitting that we’re here. This is the first time in Packers history that we’ve had a public retirement with one of our players in front of the fans.

It’s very apparent, and obviously you’re showing it today that our fans just love Donald. I’ve talked to a number of you over the years and what is it about Donald that you love so much. I think it’s a couple things. Number one, it’s one of the greatest stories, certainly in Packers history but really across the NFL when you look at the humble beginning that Donald came from, to overcome all kinds of adversity early in his life. He was a seventh-round draft pick out of Alcorn State, a I-AA school, and went onto great success and I think it just resonates well with people. And he’s always stayed true to his roots, as well. I think the other thing that stands out about Donald is his love of the game. Just watching him play and the passion he had really set him apart.

All of that, though, I think “Dancing with the Stars” put him over the top.

Larry and I were talking earlier during the last week of our annual Tailgate Tour, and I was getting questions about Len Goodman and whether he was biased, so I had to do a lot of research on your dance selections, but it was really something then to watch unfold.

Donald has obviously made a great impact on the field, but really even more meaningful was the impact he made off the field. It was countless appearances, always willing to help charitable organizations in the community. He and Betina started the Donald Driver Foundation to help homeless people and underprivileged families in Texas and the Green Bay area. He really represents the very best of the Packers and has been a great ambassador for the organization.

Lastly, I’ve been around and been involved in the NFL for all my adult life. What you’re seeing here today is very unique. I’ve been involved as a player, and now in management, and I’ve seen both sides. For a player like Donald to play his entire career with one team and to leave on his own terms is really something special.

It’s a tribute to you, Donald, the quality of the person and the man that you are. We’re so happy for you. We’re looking forward to having you have a long, long relationship with the Packers as an alumnus. Thank you again for all you’ve done, and I would remind you, although this is the end of your playing career, this is just the beginning. And you’re going to do great things with the rest of your life.

General manager Ted Thompson

This is one of my favorite things to do. First of all, I’d like to say congratulations to Donald and Betina. Obviously, their contributions to the Packers over the years have been phenomenal.

The one thing we talked about the other day while getting ready for this is trying to make sure Mark had some things to say on some topics, and I had some things, and Coach (Mike) McCarthy, so I drew up a lot of things and put it on this piece of paper. I realize none of them are worth talking about.

I do want to take you back to 1999 in our draft meetings. Ron Wolf was the general manager, and we were watching tape of a skinny wide receiver from Alcorn A&M. There’s signs in scout meeting rooms – and we’re doing that now all through this week and next week – when you go through and you watch tape, and there’s always – when you see something special and when you see something different in scout in the room and anybody can do it, they’ll say, “Can you run that back?” Well, when we were doing Donald, we did that all the time. We kept saying, “Can you run that back? Can we see that again?”

What we were seeing wasn’t something you could define so much, it was just a special quality a player had. You could see not only his athletic ability, his ability to play the game, but through that grainy, black-and-white tape we had from Alcorn A&M, you could see the enjoyment Donald had in playing the game. I think you could see the joy Donald had playing the game throughout his entire career with the Packers.

The other thing, and we’ll stay in 1999 and our first minicamp, he shows up and he’s this skinny, skinny guy. Good player, but he’s a very skinny guy. He was nothing like this summer when you guys were watching “Dancing with the Stars.” He’s dancing around half-naked, all chiseled up, big chest, big shoulders, all that sort of stuff – that wasn’t like he was when he first got here, but it is a credit to him and working hard.

He kept playing and kept playing and kept playing, and he made it. A lot of people made note that he was a seventh-round pick. First of all, that’s not the end of the world. Secondly, us as scouts make mistakes all the time. Thirdly, it doesn’t matter when you have character and you have quality and you have confidence in your ability.

No matter where Donald would’ve wound up in that draft or later for other teams, that sort of thing. Whether it was the first round he came here or whether he was a free agent – it really didn’t matter because I think all of us in this room would say it’s been a blessing having him here and he’s been a great addition to the Green Bay Packers, and we were very lucky to have him.

Coach Mike McCarthy

I would like to continue the congratulations to Donald and Betina, and I have written some things down and I never follow the script. I’m going to try to do that today.

I was looking for three things to describe Donald and my experiences with him. I was here also in 1999 as a quarterback coach, and the first thing that jumped out to me — and Ted gave you a clean description of what Donald looked like back then — but I could remember specifically a play where we were in a red-zone drill and Donald was wearing No. 13 at the time. Brett Favre was our quarterback, and he threw this ball with the velocity that it looked like it was going to go over the fence down there at Hinkle Field. Out of nowhere here comes Donald Driver, makes a big catch. You could see right away this young man definitely belonged regardless of the seventh-round pick where he came from. You could see the smile, the athletic ability. It was a tremendous first impression I’ll never forget.

The second thing I think about with Donald … Now coming back and having the chance to work with him again in 2006 and a lot of people talk about the characteristics of a great player, but when you look at Donald’s work ethic, he belonged right away, you could see that. But his work ethic compared to where he started in ’99, it’s always refreshing as a coach to see a player develop from Day 1 all the way through his career. I can recall on a daily basis, and his teammates I’m sure would echo this, Donald was the old-school guy who had the highlighter, would go through every pass, picture and highlight the same reads, a lot of the same things over and over. He had a tremendous work ethic. He’d talk to the weight training staff. His leg strength, he’d compete with the offensive linemen. Practice, never missed practice. That was never a topic of discussions. There were discussions, but he had an incredible work ethic that clearly is a big part of who he is today.

Lastly, it’s been said a couple times, the word, special, and I think that best describes Donald. We talk about him as a football player. My picture of Donald, the memory I’ll have is the (61-yard) touchdown against the 49ers (in 2010). With the throwback jersey and breaks Lord knows how many tackles. If you’re looking for a picture of what Donald Driver means to your football team, what he means as a player, that’s the picture. That’s the one I’ll always remember. Regardless of being the all-time leading receiver and in my humble opinion, I think it’s clear he’s the all-time Lambeau Leaper. No one makes it look easier than Donald. Those are great memories, but the things I’m sure you’ll hear throughout the day is the kind of teammate he was and what he’s done in the community. But the lasting impression I’ll have of Donald is, as you’ve heard, there’s this dance contest they had last spring and Donald was in it.

He really cut the men of Wisconsin into two categories. The high percentage of the men in Wisconsin said they didn’t watch the show, but they really did. Then, you had men who were comfortable with themselves who watched it every week. But having the opportunity with Rob Davis and Edgar Bennett, and their better halves, and a couple players with Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, we had the opportunity to go to the semifinal out there in Hollywood.

Really neat experience, had a chance to talk with Donald, Betina and their family all before the contest. Really something very unique. I can remember our conversation beforehand. I said, “Donald you look really light,” because he was telling me about all the training. As a coach, you shouldn’t say that to one of your players because he’s like, “Oh, but I’m strong though. I’m strong. I’m good.” I said, “I know you’re good,’ but the thing was really impressive that day because we had great seats next to Betina, the kids and the rest of the family was how effortless he was on the dance floor and seeing it live. Obviously, it’s a lot better live than it was on TV. Trust me. A really neat experience, but the best part of the trip was Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse afterwards. Lord knows what time we left there, but just to spend time with the family.

(McCarthy begins to tear up as crowd applauds)

Almost made it. There you go. I’m consistent. I’ll say that. I’m talking about the husband. I’m talking about the father. I’m talking about the friend. He’s given a tremendous amount to our organization and will continue to. Thank you Donald. Thank you Betina.

Retiring wide receiver Donald Driver

I told myself that I wasn’t going to cry today, so I’m going to try to hold all the emotions back as much as possible. But I have to say this, that I love you all so much. You guys stood out in the cold to get tickets to share this moment with me. You all are crazy. But now you know why Packer fans are so special because they show the loyalty. They show the respect. So now, I give you all the respect.

First, I would like to thank God for allowing me to be here. It has been a blessing to have the ability to play this game, to be able to see the love, the joy, the dedication that we see in others. Jesus Christ has given me the wisdom to understand when things must come to an end. Sometimes, I ask myself, “Why now?” But God says he will make a way out of no way to make you understand the reason why. So today is the day that I have decided to retire from the National Football League. It has been a tough decision. But my family and I felt it was time for the next chapter in our lives. Now, who knows what that may be. But my wife already made it clear that the first thing in retirement is getting the squirrels out of our attic in Dallas. So that’s the first thing I’ll be doing when I get back.

You know, even though I feel that I can still play the game, God has made the answer clear to me. Retirement is now. I have to retire as a Green Bay Packer.

I’ve always said that I never want to wear another uniform — but always the green and gold. Sometimes, I sit at home and think about the history of this great franchise, and I think of the players and the great coaches that came before me like Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, Jerry Kramer, the great Reggie White, Brett Favre, James Lofton, Sterling Sharpe, Ahman Green, Rob Davis, I mean this list goes on and on and on. So I felt that this is an opportunity to walk away from the game knowing that I’ve given it all that I can.

So I owe it to the fans and to this fine organization not to tarnish the legacy that they have established in me and my family.

So now my list goes to thanking people. I have to thank the man who brought me here. He can’t be here today, but I talked to him on the phone and he said, “It’s an honor to know you, to be a part of your life.” But I told Ron I could not have done it without him believing in me. So I’d like to thank Ron Wolf.

I would like to thank this man who became a father figure to me. He always opened him doors to allow me to walk in if I had something to talk about. But he retired on me too soon — (former team president) Bob Harlan.

I have to thank one of my good friends. We’ve been together since ’99. He left me and came back. It’s an honor to play for Coach Mike McCarthy. I know where this team is going, but I love you. I really do.

The man that don’t talk too much and plays the poker face. I love this guy. He doesn’t get emotional for anything, the great Ted Thompson.

Over the years I got a chance to know (Mark Murphpy) well and (is) family. I think what you’ve done for this organization and what you’re going to continue to do for this organization is truly a blessing. We’re glad to have you as our president.

I have to thank all of my head coaches: Mike Sherman, Ray Rhodes. My position coaches, Ray Sherman, Charlie Baggett, James Franklin, Jimmy Robinson and the great Edgar Bennett, aka EB. And the man, I don’t know if he’s here, but the man who came down to Alcorn State and saw this little skinny kid, like everyone said, and he worked me out and he told Ron Wolf, “This guy is something special,” and he told Ted, “This guy is something special.” I have to thank the guy who came and worked me out. Alonzo, I don’t know if you’re here but Alonzo Highsmith, I love you. Thank you.

I have to thank the entire Green Bay Packers organization. I have to thank the Board of Directors, the trainers, the equipment staff, the weight room staff, the community relations, PR, marketing, ticket office, security, Pro Shop, financial department. I love you guys, really. Thank you, all, for everything.

I would like to thank my teammates, past and present. It’s been an honor to wear the green and gold with you guys. To my family, to my friends and to all of my partners, thank you for the great relationships. The one person I have to thank truly for putting me out there in the community — he’s a good friend of mine, Brian Lammi. To my mothers, Mama Jack, thank you for always loving me and supporting me and always needing me when we need you, even if it’s on short notice to come babysit the kids, I thank you for it. To my mom, thank you for the love, for instilling in me to always follow my dreams. I love you for that.

To my grandparents — they cannot be here — I love you guys. And to my dad, he can’t be here today because he’s fighting lung cancer. I love him to death. I thank him for allowing me to be the man that I am today. To my babies, Cristian, Christina and Charity, Daddy loves you guys. Thank you for always being my No. 1 cheering section, even though you guys have never watched your Daddy play a full game because you’re always in the hallway having your own. Daddy loves you. And to my better half, the love of my life: Baby, I love you. I thank you for the love, the support for the last 16 years of our life, the 14 years of playing this game and the 13 years of marriage. I’ve said it before, you’re the backbone of our family. Life is what it is and life is whatever it may be, but life without you in my life is nothing. I love you.

Last, but not least, to the fans. I want to thank you all for the love, the joy, the cheers, the ups and though we haven’t given you too many downs. This day is not just for me, this day is for you. Twelve years ago, I signed my first big contract for the Green Bay Packers and I promised you all that I would never wear another uniform. So today, we make that official. 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 play for another team and to retire in the green and gold. I love you all, take care and God bless.

Driver Q&A with reporters

Q: How were you able to go from seventh-round pick to the Packers’ all-time leading receiver?

A: I have to say I had the work ethic. When I walked in here in 1999, I felt like I could do anything if I believed that anything was possible. So when I stood up there and I think Mike McCarthy said it better, my work ethic is unbelievable. I work out and I continue to work out because I knew there was always someone out there coming to take my job and I was trying to take someone’s job. All the great guys who played before me, it was truly an honor to stand up there and play with those guys. I had the work ethic, and I wasn’t going to let it slip away. Look at me now, I’m the all-time Packers’ receiver in history.

Q: What do you remember about being 14 years old, back when you told your brother that you’d make something of yourself?

A: Wow, that’s a long time ago. I think that was the thing laying in the bed 24 years ago with my brother. I told my brother that, “I’m going to take our family out of the struggles – the trials and tribulations to have a better life for us,” and I’ve done it. I’ve seen the success in my family. I see the success in my kids, my wife. God has been truly a blessing for us. All the things we’ve faced in our life, if we didn’t have God it wouldn’t be there. The road I was going down as a kid, God found a way to get me out of it. I’m just blessed to be able to stand up here today and say I’ve reached all the milestones I can reach.

Q: Do you have any interest in coaching?

A: They spend too many hours at the building. I’m more of a family guy. I love to be with my family. I love to spend as much time as I can with my family. I think what those guys do is an amazing job. I don’t know if I want to coach. I don’t think E.B. is ready give up his job quite yet. I’ll give him another five or six years when he became a head coach, then we’ll see.

Q: You played with two great quarterbacks in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. How did those two help you in your career?

A: I guess we’ll start with Brett. When I first walked in here in 1999, Brett kind of just took me under his wing. He threw his first ball to me and I ran it back to him. I was so excited, I was like, “You’re Brett Favre.” He was like, “Don’t worry there’s many more to come.” He instilled in me that don’t ever let anyone know that you’re hurt. Every time I’d get knocked out across the middle, I’d get up and smile. Even though I was hurt, I’d just show that beautiful smile and then get back to the huddle, and I didn’t know what’s going on, but I knew it was a run play. He instilled in me the toughness of this game.

Aaron Rodgers, I’ve seen this guy grow up a little kid to a grown man. He’s instilled in me as an older man than he is, the love for the game. The way he stepped in and he knew that no one can be better than Aaron Rodgers. He had that chip on his shoulder that I loved. I saw him go through training camp, and he fought and fought and fought. When it was all said and done, he stood among and now he’s one of the best to ever play this game. One thing I continue to learn from Aaron is you can continue to believe. People are going to doubt you, but if you continue to believe you could be anything, you’re going to be that and that’s what he did.

Q: Everyone has a favorite Donald Driver memory; what’s yours?

A: All of them. If you had to pick one, I would say the moment I ran out that tunnel at the Super Bowl. That’s a moment I’ll never forget. That’s one memory – as an NFL player, we always say that’s the greatest milestone is to make it to the National Football League and win a Super Bowl ring. I’ll never forget that moment running out that tunnel and holding up that trophy at the end of the game, and knowing I’d already reached the greatest milestone. Now, I have a Super Bowl ring.

Q: What do you remember about that 61-yard touchdown against San Francisco that McCarthy said was his favorite moment?

A: What I remember about the play is the defense didn’t care about me because I was old. It kind of worked out in my favor because they jumped Greg Jennings and they left me wide open. After that, I just said I wasn’t going to be not denied. I wanted to get to the end zone. To shake off all those tackles and for (Andrew Quarless) to make a block after that, and then it was just me trying to carry the rest to the end zone. I have to say if I look at one play of my career that stands alone, that’s the best one of my career.

Q: How have you changed since you first walked into the Packers’ locker room?

A: I was the same guy who walked in 1999, and I’m the same guy who walks out in 2013. Sometimes people say that sometimes success changes who you are – success has not changed me. I’m the same skinny little kid who walked in 1999. I’ll be the same skinny kid – well, grown man – who walked out in 2013. Nothing changes for me. I’m the same person and never will change.

Q: How will the transition be from playing in the NFL to being retired?

A: I think the most thing I’m going to miss is running out that tunnel and 70,000 cheering you on every time you catch a ball, you make a ball, and they’re screaming your name. That’s what I’m going to miss. As far as struggling part after football, I won’t struggle. I’ve got so many things I’ve prepared myself for after football. Within the next week, I’ll be hosting “The Katie Couric Show.” I’ll be co-hosting the show with her. It’ll be a nice little show, it’s going to be a wedding edition – something I like to do. I’m going to play your wedding if you decide to get married. But no, I have my life story, my book coming out in September. I’m also doing “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition with Chris Powell,” so I’m ready. I’m ready for whatever comes next. I think God has a plan for me. Football was just a starting point. I’m ready to follow whatever God has next.

Q: What’s it going to be like to have your own statue in Green Bay?

A: It’s going to mean the world. There are so many things we go through and we don’t know what to expect at the end of the day. To be honored with my own street and a statue is truly something special. That’s shows you the love. That shows you the support. That shows you the dedication of what I’ve done for this organization and this community that the community will honor me the same way. It’s truly something special. I love you guys. It’s been an awesome, awesome ride. Now, it’s time for the next chapter.