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Donald Driver retires as Packer

Dan Turczynski, Sports Writer
February 13, 2013
Filed under Sports, Top Stories

In his final appearance as a Green Bay Packers player, wide receiver Donald Driver bid the Green Bay Packers farewell in front of more than 1,000 of his closest supporters, family, friends, coaches and teammates.

Afterward, the Packers nation sat outside for hours upon hours in below-zero weather hoping to get the golden ticket to Donald Driver’s retirement party and once again appeared in full force to show their support. The Lambeau Field Atrium was packed the moment the doors opened at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 6. Fans, Lambeau employees, media and everyone else nudged, clawed and fought their way to the front of the barricade separating Driver from his fanatics.

The ceremony kicked off at 11 a.m. with host and former Packers great Larry McCarren, who introduced the first speaker, president Mark Murphy. Murphy congratulated Driver and praised Driver’s wife, Betina. He then continued to praise Driver in a three-minute speech.

Next up was the man of very few words, Ted Thompson. In an awkward fashion as only Thompson can pull off, he congratulated Driver and reminisced about the draft room in 1999 when the Packers selected Driver in round seven of the NFL Draft. Thompson kept his speech short but was effective driving home his personal feelings for Driver, which was evident to the crowd.

Finally Packers head coach Mike McCarthy took the podium. McCarthy, like Murphy and Thompson, praised Driver for his work ethic and for being a great person on and off the field. McCarthy’s speech had more sentimental value than the previous speeches. McCarthy actually broke down and started crying toward the end.

“Man, I told myself I wasn’t going to cry,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy and Driver shared a special hug at the end of the McCarthy’s speech that pulled on the heartstrings of everyone in the crowd.

The highlight of the event came when McCarren directed everyone to the jumbo screen that filled the Lambeau Atrium. It played a career tribute to Driver played. Celebrities such as Gavin DeGraw, Jaleel White, Driver’s “Dancing with the Stars” partner Peta Murgatryod former Packers great quarterback Bart Starr, former Packers wide receiver James Lofton and former Packers president Bob Harlan, all shared their congratulations for Driver.

They stated how lucky they are to know him. After the personal videos finished, a highlight reel of Driver played.

Driver’s greatest moments played with commentary by the voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee. Included in the video was his memorable touchdown against the 49ers in 2010 in which he broke a slue of tackles on his way to the endzone. Also, the first touchdown of his career in 1999, off the arm of Brett Favre, was shown. The video ended to loud applause by the fans that packed the Atrium.

In the final segment of the ceremony, McCarren asked for Driver to approach the podium for his retirement speech. An emotional Driver took the microphone and began his farewell to the Green Bay Packers.

Driver thanked former manager Ron Wolff, who was responsible for bringing Driver to Green Bay, all of his former position coaches, McCarthy, his teammates and finally the fans.

Driver thanked his wife and his family as tears rolled down his cheeks. Driver said his career wouldn’t have been possible without his soulmate Betina. Driver then directed his attention to the fans.

“I signed my first major deal with the Packers 12 years ago,” Driver said. “I vowed then and there that I would not put on another jersey in my career.”

The fans erupted in a loud ovation for Driver’s impeccable show of devotion for the organization that took a chance on him more than 14 years ago.

The ceremony ended in a media question and answer session.

One media member asked Driver how he changed since the first time he walked into the Packers locker room.

Driver simply smiled, showing his supporters his trademarked ear-to-ear grin.

“I haven’t,” Driver said. “I am the same man—the same skinny kid that walked into that locker room. Success has never changed me.”

Driver walks away as arguably the Packers greatest receiver of all time, holding the record for most receptions in a career, with 743 and most receiving yards, with 10,137.