Packers wide receiver Donald Driver has signed a five-year contract extension that will keep him in Green Bay through the 2007 season, Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced Monday.
Driver, who is in the midst of a breakout year in his fourth season in the league, spoke through tears during much of his seven-minute press conference with the media.
"I'm at a loss for words," Driver said. "You know, I worked hard. I came in here a seventh-round pick, never thought I'd get the opportunity to be able to take care of my family. I have the opportunity to do that now."
Official terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Through 11 games in 2002, Driver has led all Packers receivers with 53 receptions for 870 yards and seven touchdowns. In three seasons prior to that, Driver totaled 37 receptions for 520 yards and three touchdowns.
This offseason he was reported to have received an offer from the Kansas City Chiefs, but turned it down for a chance at staying with the Packers.
"I never wanted to leave Green Bay," he said. "I always said I wanted to stay, and I get the opportunity to retire as a Green Bay Packer. I don't know what to say."
Sherman said Driver's value to the team extends beyond the football field.
"He's not only a great player, he's a great person," Sherman said. "He's deeply involved in the community. We'd be here all day if I listed all the things he did around here."
Along with his rise to stardom, Driver's childhood has been under the media microscope this season. At times during his youth, Driver suffered through absolute poverty in Texas, at one point living out of a U-Haul moving van.
Thus, the contract extension was significant not only for himself, but for his family. And while he arguably could have made more money by testing the free agent market at the end of the season, Driver said it was a relief to have it out of the way.
"It's something you can get off your shoulders," Driver said. "When I talked to my grandmother (Betty Lofton) today it was just so surprising that I could tell her that she don't have to work no more. That was my goal for years and years to be able to do."
Driver credited Sherman for helping make negotiations easy.
"In the offseason I talked to Coach Sherman and he said, 'Hey, quit looking, you're not going anywhere,'" Driver remembered. "I kept saying, 'Well, I don't know.' And he said, 'No, you're not going anywhere. Whatever I have to do to keep you here, I'm going to do it.'
"He's the type of guy who respects a player, respects him not only as a player but as a person. Coach Sherman knows where I came from. He's just a great guy."
Among his reasons for staying in Green Bay, Driver listed Packers fans, coaches and players.
"It can't get any better than this," he said.
An official press release will follow.