Packers WR Donald Driver calls it a career

Donald Driver found a way to retire in style.

On Wednesday, the popular Green Bay Packers wide receiver

celebrated his 14-year career during an event at Lambeau Field with

family, friends, a handful of teammates and 1,500 fans who filled

the atrium and lined balconies to get a glimpse of him.

”I told myself I wasn’t going to cry today, so I’m going to

hold the emotion back as much as possible. I love you all so

much,” said Driver, who retired after catching 743 passes for

10,137 yards after making the team as a seventh-round draft pick

out of Alcorn State in 1999.

”It was a tough decision, but my family and I felt it was time

for the next chapter in our life.”

Driver praised the fans who stood in line in subzero

temperatures last week for a chance to get tickets to the event,

which drew more than 10,000 viewers to the Packers.com online

stream and was also carried live on television stations across the

state.

Team president Mark Murphy said it was the first time in

franchise history that a player had held a public retirement news

conference.

If there is another, that player will have a hard time topping

Driver, who is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.

”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,” Driver said. ”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.”

He said Wednesday that he’ll be guest-hosting Katie Couric’s

talk show and appearing on ABC’s ”Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss

Edition with Chris Powell”, among other off-the-field

endeavors.

Governor Scott Walker announced Wednesday was ”Donald Driver

Day” in the state of Wisconsin, and Mayor Jim Schmitt announced

that a downtown Green Bay street will be renamed ”Donald Driver

Way.” In addition, the statue, ”The Receiver,” will be repainted

to represent Driver, replacing the generic player wearing No. 88 it

now depicts.

”I was the same guy who walked in 1999 and I’m the same guy who

walks out in 2013,” Driver said. ”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.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Driver’s 61-yard touchdown

against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2010 season embodied the

player he was. Driver caught the ball at the San Francisco 39-yard

line and broke several tackles en route to the end zone.

”My picture of Donald, the memory I’ll have is the touchdown

against the 49ers – with the throwback jersey and (where he) breaks

Lord knows how many tackles,” McCarthy said. ”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.”

Driver finished his career as one of the most popular players in

franchise history, alongside Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr,

who was among those who appeared in a video tribute to Driver.

”When I walked in here in 1999, I felt like I could do anything

if I believed that anything was possible,” Driver said. ”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.”

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