In these days of free agency and unlimited mobility, wide receiver Donald Driver has made it clear he wants to spend the rest of his pro football career in Green Bay and "retire as a Green Bay Packer."
The swift and wiry split end, who has become Brett Favre's "go-to-guy" this season, took a major step in that direction Monday, signing a five-year Packers contract extension.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman made the announcement at the end of his weekly Monday press conference in the media auditorium of the Packers' administration building and set the stage for Driver's subsequent declaration by asserting, "I hope it's for even longer than that because this guy brings an awful lot to our football team in more ways than you can ever imagine.
"He's not only a great player, he's a great person...and he's deeply involved in our community. I couldn't even begin - we would be here all day if I listed all the things he does around here."
"At night time," Sherman facetiously appended, "he even sweeps the hallway for us.
"What a great guy...I'm proud to say that he's going to be with us for five years and...hopefully, retire as a Green Bay Packer."
The new document assures that Driver, an unheralded, seventh-round draft selection in 1999 out of Alcorn State, will remain in a Green Bay uniform through the 2007 season.
Driver, briefly overcome by Sherman's warm introduction, recovered his composure and first thanked Sherman before saying, "I've worked hard...I'm a seventh-round pick...I never thought I'd get the opportunity to be able to take care of my family. Now I have the opportunity of doing that.
"And I take my hat off to Coach Mike Sherman...the coaching staff. Thank you Brett (Favre)...and my agent, for getting the deal done.
"And, beyond that, I never wanted to leave Green Bay...which is where I wanted to stay so I could get the opportunity to retire as a Green Bay Packer."
Driver, primarily a third-down receiver and special teams standout for his first three seasons, became the Packers' starting split end this year and has taken impressive advantage of the opportunity.
After 11 games, he owns the highest average-per-catch in the NFL's National Football Conference (16.4 yards), ranks fourth in total receiving yards (870) and is tied for 10th in the NFC with 53 receptions. He also has posted a team-high 7 receiving touchdowns.
Driver, who needs only 130 yards to record the first 1,000-yard receiving season of his career, already has posted three 100-yard receiving days while starting all 11 games at split end. He also has turned in a pair of 80-plus-yards touchdown catches this year.
He enjoyed his top performance of the season to date in the Packers' 40-14 triumph over Detroit Nov. 10, posting career highs for both receptions (11) and yards receiving (130). His 11 receptions against the Lions represent the most catches by a Green Bay player in six years (11 by Don Beebe on Oct. 14, 1996, vs. San Francisco).
An outstanding track athlete as a collegian, who garnered All-SWAC honors in both football and track as a senior at Alcorn State, the 27-year-old Houston native qualified for the 1996 Olympic Field Trials in the high jump with a leap of 7 feet, 6-1/2 inches (ranked No. 1 in the nation that year), accomplished at the 37th Pelican Relays.