Can't say I've ever covered anything quite like Donald Driver's retirement ceremony before. And that covers more than 30 years of football players coming and going. Brett Favre's first retirement press conference comes close, but that was more a media circus than today's happy, sentimental, fan crazy love fest inside the Atrium at Lambeau Field. More than a thousand tickets were snapped up in less than 20 minutes for the event and the Packer faithful wasn't disappointed. Donald was the first to walk on stage, smartly dressed in a tan suit with his wife Betina equally as fashionable in a dark dress. The ceremony was MC'd by former Packer and broadcaster Larry McCarren who introduced team President Mark Murphy, Vice President and General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy. All three offered touching remarks, Murphy on the great connection Driver had with the team and the fans, Thompson recalling the drafting of a skinny kid from Alcorn State in 1999, and McCarthy, getting emotional for a short spell, offering his regard for the franchise's all time receiving leader. Then came the dignitaries, Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum, wearing a number 80 jersey, with a plaque declaring February 6, 2013 as Donald Driver Day across the state. Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt presented Driver with a key to the city and then unveiled a plan to re-paint the statue outside Titletown Brewing downtown to number 80, with Driver on the jersey. He also announced the short street in front of the old Chicago and Northwestern train depot, which used to ferry the team off to road trips in the granstand franchise days, will now be named Donald Driver Way. Up next was a video tribute, featuring former President Bob Harlan, Pro Football Hall of Famer James Lofton, Jim McKrell, Len Goodman and several cast members from Dancing With The Stars, along with dozens of highlight catches and snapshots of Driver's community involvement. That brought up the man of the hour.
Driver needed several moments just to compose himself as the Atrium crowd roared. He talked of his faith, his passion for the game and all the loves of his life, from Betina, to Cristian, Christina and little Charity, who by the time the question and answer session got going, was in daddy's arms at the podium. Driver spoke with emotion about why he knew retirement must come while still in a Packer uniform. He thanked the entire Packer staff, his teammates and most importantly, the fans. When he finished up, he glad handed the special guests and then worked the crowd like a champ. I even got a high five and hug from a player I've come to know pretty well over his 14 years in Green Bay and I can honestly say, Donald Driver Way might as well be lover's lane, for it will be a two way street carrying the feelings of a team's fan base and an iconic hero.