1.)Introduction: Before the start of the 2010 season, one would have thought Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver would have grown sick and tired of playoff heartbreak.
Two years after a nauseating loss at home to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship, Driver had to feel like vomiting after Aaron Rodgers sack and subsequent fumble was returned for a touchdown in overtime of last season’s NFC Wild Card against the Arizona Cardinals.
Still, as Driver always has, he came back and made sure he wouldn’t experience that again. A 7th round draft pick in 1999 out of Alcorn St, Driver is used to having been counted out. As he worked his way up the depth chart, Driver’s heart and determination along with his pure class off the field has turned the late round pick into a Packers legend.
Coming into 2010, Driver knew his window of opportunity to get a Super Bowl ring was closing but he felt like this team more than others he had played on gave him the best shot of finally fulfilling that dream.
Donald Jerome Driver
Height: 6-0 Weight: 188 lbs.
3.) Expectations entering 2010 season: Driver has been a model of consistency, racking up over 1,000 yard each of the past six seasons and the same was expected of him again in 2010. With tight end Jermichael Finley emerging as the league’s next superstar tight end, the Packers were expected to have quite a three-headed receiving monster of Finley, wide receiver Greg Jennings and Driver.
Driver did turn 35 this year but his work ethic in the weight room had many feel like his body was in the condition of someone much younger than he really was. While injuries are always a threat, people had become accustomed to Driver answering the bell every week as he had missed only one start since 2003.
4.) Highlights/Lowlights: Driver’s entire career could basically be summed up in one single play that happened at home against the San Francisco 49ers in early December. Driver’s 61 yard touchdown catch and run had the receiver changing directions and breaking more tackles than I could count. His stubborn refusal to be brought down is a microcosm of his 12 year NFL career.
As for a lowlight, like a cloud that hung over the entire receiving corps, Driver suffered an occasional bout of the drops. What made it even more stunning for Driver is that he has always been one of the most reliable pass catchers in the entire NFL, let alone on the Packers.
Driver also missed more playing time than he was used to this season due to injury. None of his injuries were serious, but it definitely hurt him (and the Packers) when he was unable to return to Super Bowl XLV with an ankle injury.
5.) Contributions to the team’s overall success: If Charles Woodson was the locker room leader for the defense, then Driver was the unquestionable leader for the team on offense. Even though he had a down year statistically, Driver’s leadership had a tremendous impact on the entire team.
As players continued to drop like flies due to injury, the veteran leadership of the Packers kept guys cool and focused on the ultimate prize while not feeling sorry for themselves. Driver was definitely part of that group.
On the field, Driver still provided a reliable target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers despite his numbers not being what they normally are. With his ability to go over the middle, Driver played a key role in Greg Jennings’ re-emergence following the loss of Finley for the season.
6). Contributions during the team’s six-game end-of-season run: Driver was largely held in check during the Packers’ six-game run to the world championship, catching no touchdowns and averaging 42.3 yards through the air per game. With Rodgers spreading the ball around to his receivers throughout the postseason as part of the Packers’ aggressive passing attack, it figured receivers could see their individual stats drop, but now that he has a Super Bowl ring Driver most certainly wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Season Report Card:
Level of expectations met during the season (C-)
Contributions to the team’s overall success (B)
Contributions to the team’s successful playoff run(B-)
Overall grade: C+——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke