Driver's long road finally leads to Super Bowl
By DAVID DALATI
Feb. 1, 2011
Donald Driver now has his chance. After 12 seasons and a long, hard and poignant road to the NFL, Driver gets an opportunity to play on the biggest stage in, arguably, all of sports. Even better, Driver gets a shot at top prize. Despite the fact that he's been one of the league's best receivers for years, a durable player that has played in at least 13 games for 11 consecutive years, the Packers' veteran receiver lacks the most desired jewel of the NFL — a Super Bowl ring.
"If you win a Super Bowl, it separates you from other great players that have played this game," Driver said Monday in Dallas, soon after the Packers arrived for Super Bowl XLV. "When they show that resume, it goes Super Bowl champion and then it says you played 15 years and you're the all-time Packer leading receiver. That ring separates you from (players) in the Hall of Fame."
But whether Driver and the Packers win the Super Bowl or not, the receiver has already distinguished himself from many others. Driver's journey to the NFL has been told: he spent some of his childhood days homeless in Houston and was desperate enough to sell drugs so that the family could eat. Driver, however, decided that he would not allow the misery that surrounded him to define what he could become one day. Driver dedicated himself completely to football at Milby High School and later at Alcorn St. The Packers selected Driver in the seventh round of the 1999 draft. Driver went on to become a three time Pro Bowler and is on the verge of becoming the most prolific receiver in Packers history. Driver is the all-time Green Bay leader in catches and trails James Lofton by only 41 yards in receiving yards.
And this Super Bowl appearance is even more special because Driver is playing at home. Despite the fact that Driver grew up in Houston, he, his wife and their two children now live in Dallas. It was a compromise, since Betina Driver is from Mississippi.
"That four and a half hour drive (to Houston) is good enough," Driver said with a huge smile. "People can't just come and knock on your door so that's a good thing."
Because of his background, Driver's story is inspirational. Driver appreciates that his tale can motivate others that may be in a circumstance similar to the one that he endured as a child, but his priority is to affect his immediate family.
"The biggest thing is that I feel that I'm an inspiration for two," said Driver. "I have two beautiful kids that I have to be a leader for. To me, that's all that matters. I love my wife unconditionally and I love my kids with everything that I have. When it's all said and done, I don't want my kids to look at me and say, ‘My dad was a great football player.' I want my kids to know that their dad was great father and a great husband. To me, that sets me on top of the world."
Driver has certainly not forgotten his roots.
"As a small kid from Houston and probably no one expected me to make it because of all the things I've been through in my life," Driver said. "But I'm happy to be a Houston native and I'm happy to be here in my home state playing in the Super Bowl."
With the Packers, Driver is part of one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson combined to catch 222 passes for 3,091 yards.
"This is the best group I've played with," Driver said. "Everybody brings something different to the table. They call me the old man of the group so I have to lead the group."
Driver caught 51 passes for 565 yards in 2010.
Driver was asked about reflecting on how far he has come since his days at Houston's Milby High School, but he said he hasn't yet taken time to contemplate the remarkable journey.
"When the game is over is when you go back and start reminiscing about all the old times and where you (are) today," Driver said. "Your past makes who you are today. All of things I did at Milby and Alcorn have me the person I am today."