Not only is Driver the Packers’ all-time leading receiver, but he is one player who endeared himself so deeply into the hearts of team fans over the course of the past decade or so, that he won’t soon be forgotten.
One can point to many plays made by Driver, but it’s the 61-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in December 2010 that continues to stick in my mind.
Donald Driver has called that specific play the best of his entire career – one that I personally captured on film as I kneeled just feet away as an on-field photographer that chilly day at Lambeau.
With our numbers countdown hitting 61 today, I thought that instead of focusing on a player to have worn that number (can you name one, other than Brett Goode?), that I would focus on this specific Donald Driver play – one that went for 61 yards.
It was Dec. 5, 2010, to be exact, when Aaron Rodgers lined the team up at their own 39 yard line.
What was about to occur was something none of the 70,000-plus in the stadium could have seen coming.
It was a thing of beauty.
Driver, when asked about the play, remembered the Niners’ defense didn’t care about him – he was old – and they left him alone …
That was a mistake for which Driver made them pay.
The guy demonstrated that he was far from old.
Dropping back into the pocket, Rodgers found the wide receiver open across the middle and hit Driver in stride as he crossed from left to right.
I watched the play unfold in front of me and captured a series of photographs that describe the play in detail.
I got my camera up and into position just as Driver caught the pass and began to turn upfield. At the time, the Packers were in a tight 14-13 dogfight with the Niners. After this play, the game was over for the Niners, as the Packers took control.
It was the roar of the crowd that I remember most as I watched through my viewfinder … it began as a low rumble and intensified with each step the veteran took downfield.
The crowd could see the play turning big and reacted accordingly.
When tight end Andrew Quarless came into the picture, leaped, and completed a block that finally sprung Donald Driver clear and into the open that it became evident that this was something special.
This is the moment in time that I captured in a post on this site a couple of years ago:
"As he reached the 30 near where I was positioned, there was a blur of action – bodies flying in and out of my field of vision. For a moment I was frightened the entire mass of players would come flying out of bounds and into me – but that was only for a moment.That blur of bodies? That was the moment when Packers tight end Andrew Quarless dove over the top of Donald Driver to block the San Francisco would-be tackler and free the Packer veteran for more yards.I kept shooting.An exhausted Donald Driver watches his play on the replay board while making his way back to the bench. Raymond T. Rivard photographDriver bulled his way past me, stopped on a dime as a Frisco player flew by him and out of the play. As quickly as “Quickie” stopped to let the defender fly by, he was off again toward the end zone. He got hit by three or four players inside the 10 and dragged all of them toward the goal line and into the end zone for the touchdown catch-and-run of his career."
It was a career-defining play – 61 yards in total – a play that illustrated the career of one of the finest wide receivers ever to wear a Packers uniform. It was also a play that Packers fans will never forget.
More from that reaction piece I wrote a while back:
"Driver didn’t do a Lambeau Leap – he was too exhausted and dazed. Slowly, but surely he regained his senses as he made his way back to the bench. What fans were watching on the jumbo-tron at the stadium and on their television screens brought about gasps of incredulous joy. Nobody could believe what they had just seen.Not only was that play an incredible feat of human effort, it was the play that propelled the Packers toward their drive through December and January and their Super Bowl XLV Championship. His effort was the turning point of that season – it inspired an entire team toward the pinnacle that has been one of the most incredible in Packers history."
We will remember Donald Driver with joy … and this play that helped define him as a player … is just one of the reasons this guy is in the Packers Hall of Fame. Are we not confused as to why Donald Driver is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? If not, we should be.