Veteran receiver a driving force
LAS COLINAS, Texas — Once Donald Driver boarded the bus bound for the airport yesterday, the Super Bowl experience began for the Packers wide receiver.
Driver usually drives himself to the airport for road games. But for the last game of the 2010 season, he hopped on a bus that exited Lambeau Field with streams of fans sending the team off.
“This is the day when you start believing you’re finally here,’’ Driver said. “When I got on the bus, I think that’s when it really struck me.’’
Driver is in his 12th season, but Sunday will be his first Super Bowl. In 1998, the last time the Packers were in the Super Bowl, Driver was still at Alcorn State. The next year, the Packers grabbed Driver in the seventh round. Now Driver has returned to his home state with hopes of becoming a world champion.
Driver lives in Flower Mound, a suburb of Dallas, in the offseason and said he expects many friends and family to be at Cowboys Stadium.
“It’s good to be at home and play in front of your home crowd,’’ said Driver, who played at Milby High in Houston. “This is what you always dream of. You always say that if you don’t get to play for your home team, at least you get to play in your home [state].’’
Driver is the veteran of a Green Bay receiving corps that includes Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. The “old man’’ tag is placed on Driver, who will turn 36 tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean he is expected to step aside. Jennings, who is in his fifth season, led the Packers during the regular season with 76 receptions, 1,265 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
“I don’t know that he’s passed the torch,’’ Jennings said. “It’s hard to get the torch from him. He’s still the guy. As long as he’s there, he’s our guy because of what he brings to the table. I think the No. 1 thing he’s done is lead by example and show us how to be a professional week in and week out.’’
Over the years, Jennings has watched Driver display patience and he said that has been key in trying to secure a place in the NFL. Some days Jennings observed how Driver ran routes or managed to be in the right place at the right time. Other days he watched how Driver carried himself.
“The one thing I’ve been able to do the most is just to watch the way he works,’’ Jennings said. “His work ethic is second to none. Obviously, his contribution to the Packers has been consistent each year, year in and year out. When you have a guy like that in your room and you can look up to a guy like that, you have to absorb as much as possible.’’
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers utilized all of his weapons this season as the four receivers each collected more than 500 yards — a first in franchise history. The Packers were fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (4,355).
“This is the best group I’ve played with,’’ Driver said. “Overall, everybody brings something different to the table. We got a bunch of guys that right now if they left the Green Bay Packers, they could go play anywhere in the National Football League and be starters. I’m just glad they’re on my side.’’
Driver said the chance to win a championship ring is what all players strive for.
“Oh, it’s going to mean everything,’’ Driver said. “This is the part that you usually dream of. This is your legacy. When you play as long as I’ve played, that’s what you’re fighting for right now and that ring on my finger would be gorgeous. It’d be a beautiful thing.’’