Few players have the opportunity and the ability to retire from the NFL with the level of class shown by Donald Driver.
It’s not easy to leave the NFL where a whole flowchart of employees — from trainers, to coaches to cooks — work hard to help you excel; where your days are scheduled for you and you can tell whether you’ve succeeded by looking at a scoreboard every Sunday afternoon; and where the 70,000-voice strong cheer greets you as you begin your workday.
Very few men earn their way into an NFL locker room and, once a player leaves, he really can’t go back.
I don’t think Donald Driver wanted to retire, but I think he weighed the very real prospect of playing for another team with appropriate caution. He built his brand with his work ethic, his athletic ability, his loyalty and his smile. He preserved that brand by leaving the way he did.
That’s why he’ll always be a hero in Titletown; this summer the city of Green Bay will unveil a street named after him.
It would be easy to compare Driver’s exit from the Packers with that of his teammate and friend Greg Jennings. But it wouldn’t be fair.
At 29-years old, Jennings is nine years younger than Driver. Still, he has reached a critical stage in his career. Most NFL players’ careers end before they reach 30 and the Packers currently have only two players on their roster over 30 — John Kuhn, who is 30, and Ryan Pickett, who is 33.
Some fans say Jennings sold out when he signed with the Vikings, lured by a lucrative contract. I think the salary had something to do with his decision. But, I also think the guarantees played a role and the opportunity to be the No. 1 receiver.
I’m not saying I’m going to cheer for the man when he runs onto Lambeau Field wearing purple. I’m genetically incapable of cheering for the Vikings.
But, I’m not going to boo either.
For seven great seasons we enjoyed the talents and personalities of two gifted athletes and admirable men. I think we should take the high road when it comes to Greg Jennings. In fact, we should take Donald Driver Way.