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Best by numbers: No. 80

Posted Jun 14, 2011

Packers.com is letting you, the fan, give us some answers in our “Best by numbers” series. Our website staff has compiled a list of eight numbers worn by notable players from different eras, and it’s up to you to vote for the best player to wear each number.

The ballot is on the right side of the page and it’s on the home page, too.

In our most recent installment in the series, No. 63, legendary Packers guard Fuzzy Thurston was the easy winner.

Next up is the fifth number of the eight in the series, No. 80.

James Lofton (1978-86)

Drafted in the first round with the sixth overall pick in 1978, Lofton spent the first nine years of his career in Green Bay and was selected for the Pro Bowl his first seven. He still ranks No. 1 on the team’s all-time list for receiving yardage with 9,656 and for hundred-yard games with 32. He’s also third with 530 receptions.

It’s not those totals that are as impressive as his averages in a Green Bay uniform – 1,073 yards per season and 18.2 yards per catch, all for just short of a decade.

That per-catch average ranks only fourth in team history, but it’s far and away the top number among the six Packers with more than 350 receptions. Only Don Hutson’s 16.4-yard average is within 2 yards of it.

One of the most natural-looking receivers the franchise has ever seen, with an impressive combination of size, speed and hands, Lofton went on to play for four other teams and retired after the 1993 season with 14,004 career yards, then an NFL record. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Jackie Harris (1990-93)

Harris only played four seasons with the Packers upon arriving as a fourth-round draft pick in 1990, but he was a key player in the development of Mike Holmgren’s West Coast offense, as it became one of the most feared attacks in the league.

In 1992 and 1993, Holmgren’s first two seasons, Harris finished second on the team in receiving yards behind Sterling Sharpe. He had 55 receptions for 595 yards in ’92 and 42 catches for 604 yards in ’93, totals he topped just once in eight seasons after leaving Green Bay (1995 with Tampa Bay; 62 catches, 751 yards).

Harris paved the way for the productive “West Coast offense” tight ends that followed him with the Packers – Mark Chmura, Keith Jackson and Bubba Franks – a position that has since evolved to feature Jermichael Finley in Mike McCarthy’s version of the offense.

Donald Driver (1999-present)

There may not be a better rags-to-riches story in Packers history. From his childhood days when his family suffered through bouts of homelessness, even living out of a U-Haul at one point in time, to being a seventh-round draft pick to becoming a Packers great, Driver’s tale is a remarkable one not yet finished.

By his own estimation, Driver recalls sitting 12th on the depth chart during his rookie training camp in 1999, behind the likes of Dee Miller, Jahine Arnold, Tyrone Goodson and Zola Davis.

He moved past all of them in a month, and over the last 12 years he has moved past far more significant Green Bay figures – Antonio Freeman for longest postseason reception in team history, Lofton for most seasons with at least 50 catches, Sterling Sharpe for most consecutive games with a catch, and Sharpe again for most career receptions, a total that stands at 698 and counting.

With another 42 yards, Driver will pass Lofton’s team mark of 9,656 yards. At that point, all that’s left to ponder is whether Driver will join Lofton in Canton. That may be a longshot, but if Driver contributes to another Super Bowl title or two before he hangs it up, who knows?

All right, there are your choices. Be sure to cast your vote.

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