Driver is leader of the Pack

BY foxsports • February 5, 2011

Mark Concannon
FOXSportsWisconsin.com


Donald Driver is the oldest player on the Packers roster. That fact alone gives him leadership status. Driver has earned that status but admits becoming a team leader was a learning experience.

"You know me and Greg (Jennings), we have embraced each other," Driver said. "We're real close friends. But maybe we didn't like one another early in our career because you think the young guy's coming in to take your spot, but we have embraced one another and know that we both have been put on this team for a reason and that's to win games and win championships and now we're both together on the biggest stage on earth. We gotta win it."

Jennings said he has enjoyed building his relationship with Driver. "In this realm, in this profession, I think it's best that you embrace the guys that have laid down the foundation before you and he has definitely been one of those guys."

Driver went from warily eyeing the kid from Western Michigan as a threat to take his job into becoming a major fan of Jennings big time talent.

"He's truly everything, "sometimes I tell myself, 'I wish you would have been like him too,' and Greg always says, 'I hope to play as long as you too, '" Driver said.

"I think he's underappreciated," Jennings said of Driver. "Sometimes he's not mentioned with the great receivers and things like that. But you can't find a guy who's done a lot of the things that he's done as far as statistically, and even on the practice field. The way he works the way he approaches his job, he approaches it like it's game day. He never wants to take a day off, never wants to sit out."

In his early days with the Packers, James Jones doesn't recall many lengthy conversations with Driver but says the veteran's actions sent him a clear message.

"When I first came here this guy's a 10, 11 year vet," Jones recalled. "And this dude, he won't miss a practice. He won't sit out a play and as a young guy when you see that, you can't do anything but follow that guy."

Jennings' locker is adjacent to Driver's and Greg has learned a lot by watching the way Driver conducts himself every workday.

"You want to have a guy like that in your locker room," Jennings said, "And being afforded the opportunity to have him right next me in the locker room in the next locker, in our position, you can sponge a lot off a guy like that. He's been consistent over the years. It's his longevity and how he's been able to go about this for such a long time and perform at such a high level."

"Donald is a great leader for the group," said wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson. "And he's always been unselfish in terms of his willingness to help guys and not to look at them as a threat at his position and that has certainly helped these guys that have come along after him."

Driver, who lives in suburban Dallas, turned 36 this past Wednesday and invited his fellow receivers to his home to celebrate. The "old man" heard quite a bit from his teammates about being the club's "senior citizen."

"He's a pretty old man right now," Jennings said. "I think he has 7, 8 or 9 years on me (actually, 8 years and 5 months) and over 10 years on everybody else, all the other receivers. We joke with him a lot. Kids, nowadays have children while they're children, and we're like, 'man, we could have been your kid.' We give him a hard time, but he's been a great, great, great instrument in our room."

The other receivers may think fondly think of Driver as "Father Time." The Packers offensive coordinator sees Donald as an assistant coach on the field.

"He's been a leader since the day I arrived in 2003," said Joe Philbin. "He sets a great example, not only on the field in terms of his productivity as a player over time in games but whether it's the practice, whether it's his participation in off the field stuff in the community, he's a great ambassador for the organization. You know he's a true pro, loves football, loves to compete and I think those guys feed off of that example."

Jennings and the rest of the Packers have unofficially dedicated this Super Bowl run to the Old Man, who will play in his first world championship game on Sunday. Driver is excited for many of his teammates who made it to the big game much earlier in their careers than he did, especially for Jennings, who Driver once perceived as a professional threat, who was also named to the Pro Bowl roster for the first time.

"I think last year he should have made the pro bowl and he didn't," Driver said of Jennings. "This year he makes it and he's excited about that but the ultimate goal for him is to get to the Super Bowl and look at him now. In his 5th year, he's in the bowl."

Donald Driver had to learn how to be a leader. It took time for him to understand what it took to assume that important role. It has taken him even longer to play for a championship.

"In my career I have done a lot of things and made a lot of mistakes," Driver said. " But when you get the opportunity to play this game, you have to embrace it."

"This game just doesn't come around. There are a lot of people who never get this opportunity to play on this level. You can't let it slip away."


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