GRAND CHUTE, Wis. – Donald Driver says teams have called to see if he’d consider coming out of retirement. He’d say, “Yes,” to only one of those teams.
“Twelve years ago, I sat down at that podium and signed my first big contract, and I told millions of fans that I’d never wear another color but the green and gold,” Driver said before his annual charity softball game. “Teams have called and asked would I want to come out (of retirement). Nope, I love the green and gold. If the Packers called and asked, ‘Drive, come back to training camp,’ I’ll be back in training camp. Until then, I’ll be sitting at home and just watching football.”
Driver, who took the baton from Brett Favre, hosted the sixth edition of the game. For the fourth consecutive time, it was a sellout crowd of more than 9,000.
It was the capper of a big weekend homecoming for Driver. On Saturday, “The Receiver” statue was dedicated in his honor – complete with “80” and “Driver” on his jersey. The statue is located outside Titletown Brewing Co., which is now located on Donald Driver Way.
“It’s been good, it’s been good,” Driver said. “I would have never imagined. In 14 years, if someone had told me that throughout my career I would win a Super Bowl, that’d I’d be Green Bay Packers all-time leading receiver, that I’d get a statue named after me, that’d I’d win ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and get a street, I would have never imagined it. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for us – for me and my family.”
Fighting back his emotions for a moment, Driver continued, “It’s been good.”
The parking lot outside of the stadium was filled well in advance of the first pitch, with plenty of fans wearing “80” jerseys soaking in the Sunday sun while gathered around grills and coolers.
“You can feel the love just driving into the stadium,” Driver said. “They’re yelling and screaming. You’re not going to get that anywhere else. I go back to Dallas and I can walk the streets and everybody goes, ‘Hey, Donald. That’s Donald.’ They leave me alone. Here, it’s just the love. They’re always chasing you. It’s a proven fact yesterday. Stopped at a light after the statue ceremony and they just mobbed the truck. I opened up the truck and just hugged and took pictures. That shows you that when you give to them, they give it back to you. Today, it’s a special moment for them because maybe they think this is my last softball game and they may never see me again. But I’m in Green Bay and here in Wisconsin. I’m not going anywhere. This is my home and it will always be.”
About the only negative were the rosters, which were void of big-name players. With the Packers’ offseason practices complete, most of the players had gone home. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who lives full-time in the area, was the only starter at the game. Most of the rosters were filled with rookies, who have another week of obligations with the team. A few former players, including Ahman Green, Allen Rossum, William Henderson and Noah Herron, rounded out the teams.
“Yeah, it was tough,” Driver said. “Most of the veteran guys, like Aaron (Rodgers), Clay (Matthews), Jordy (Nelson), all those guys were ready to go home. Once they got into camp, they were ready to go home. We normally have it the first week of June but we had to move it to the second week of June, which just happened to be Father’s Day. Next year, we’ll work it around the Packers’ minicamps and make sure that we get the guys here that fans want to see.”