Donald Driver's legacy
News of Donald Driver's retirement shouldn't come as a big surprise. The veteran turns 38 on Saturday and saw his role with the Packers diminish so much that he had to volunteer to play on special teams just to see the field. Driver only wanted to play with the Packers and when it became clear that this would be his last go-around with the Pack it was time to call it a career.
Driver retires as an overwhelmingly popular player. So now the debate begins as to how much impact Driver had on the organization. Will the Packers retire Driver's number? Not likely. The Packers rarely do that and the honor is reserved for only the most elite in NFL history. But that does not diminish what Driver was able to accomplish.
The summer of 1999 sure feels like a long time ago. As a seventh round pick Driver, like most seventh rounders, had little chance of making the roster. Driver impressed the coaching staff so much during training camp that he earned a spot on the roster. But making the roster didn't guarantee Driver much. He was active for only seven games in '99 and was used mostly on special teams. It's easy to forget that being on the field wasn't always an automatic thing for Driver.
The next season he continued to climb the depth chart and even started two games. By 2002 Driver was a fixture of the Packers offense. From there he recorded six straight 1,000 receiving yard seasons from 2004 to 2009. And of course, he ends his career as the franchise leader in receptions and yards. That's a far cry from the longshot special teams contributor in 1999 who wasn't supposed to make the team.
Driver certainly isn't the first late round pick to have a productive career but he's one of the few late round guys to consistently lead a team year after year. In the future, another Packer will wear #80 but it's likely that no one will match Driver's legacy of going from afterthought to the franchise's most prolific pass catcher.