Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Former Packers WR was driven to be a hero
Posted Nov 6, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Nov 6, 2013 at 11:30 PM
Donald Driver easily could have become a sad statistic. Instead, he put up some eye-popping numbers during his 14-year, record-setting career as a wide receiver with the Green Bay Packers. He also showcased his moves away from the football field by winning at “Dancing with the Stars” in 2012, and his charity work has made a difference for underprivileged children and families.
But while growing up in the slums of Houston, Driver was selling drugs and stealing cars, living on the edge just one step ahead of the police. Even his nickname fit him: Quickie.”
“Looking back, I realize I easily could have wound up six feet under,” Driver writes in his inspiring memoir, “Driven: From Homeless to Hero, My Journeys On and Off Lambeau Field” (Crown Archetype; hardback, $25, 278 pages). Driver, with an assist from author Peter Golenbock, recounts an amazing life fraught with obstacles. And he writes about it with humility and candor, and not in a preachy, rags-to-riches style.
Certainly, Driver’s story is a successful one. But he writes it with a point to make; no matter what obstacles one faces, they can be overcome if you believe in yourself.
There was plenty for Driver to overcome. He rubbed elbows with drug dealers and endured a dysfunctional family life. At one point, Driver and his siblings were sleeping in a U-Haul trailer under a bridge. He and his brother Moses eventually were sent to live with his paternal grandparents, but Driver was leading a double life — a good student by day, and a kid selling drugs and stealing cars by night.
“It was like I was standing on top of a skinny fence wondering, ‘Which way do I really want to go?’ ” Driver writes.
He finally got out of dealing drugs, thanks in large part to the woman who would become his wife, Tina, who gave him an ultimatum.
“If you want to be with me, you’ve got to stop this,” she told him.
“Meaning,” Driver writes, “I had to get out of the drug business.”
He faced a lot of pressure, but Driver had a sense of purpose.
“I’m always going to be part of the hood,” Driver explained to his drug suppliers in Houston’s Fifth Ward. “But I am going to have to separate the hood from where I want to be.”
After a successful career at Alcorn State, Driver was the Packers’ seventh-round draft pick and found himself fifth on the depth chart among receivers in Green Bay.
“I didn’t even know where Green Bay was,” he writes. “I knew it was north. I knew it was cold. I was thinking it was in Illinois, somewhere north of Chicago.”
Driver fought his way into the starting lineup and clicked immediately with quarterback Brett Favre. He adopted the mantra of his coach, Mike Sherman, who would say “continue to work.”
By the time his career had ended, Driver’s work had paid off. He retired as Green Bay’s all time leader in receptions and yardage, with 743 catches and 10,137 yards. His 61 touchdown catches puts him third on the Packers’ all-time list, behind Don Hutson (99) and Sterling Sharpe (65). He also earned a Super Bowl ring when the Packers defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.
“Sports gave me purpose and allowed me to graduate with a degree and go on to bigger things,” Driver writes.
One of those bigger things was Driver’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.” Driver teamed with New Zealand dancer Peta Murgatroyd, and “it was very much a brother-sister relationship.”
“She had a boyfriend, and I was married,” Driver writes. “We could tease each other and still get our work done.”
Driver and Murgatroyd won the competition, and “it was one of the most amazing moments I have ever experienced,” Driver writes.
“Driven” is the perfect name for this memoir. It took plenty of drive for a troubled youth to find the right path and make the right choices, but Driver did it and set an example for others.