GREEN BAY – A surefire member of the Packers Hall of Fame in a few years, Donald Driver will have to get used to being mentioned in the same breath as other Green Bay legends.
He got to warm up to the idea on Tuesday, as it was announced Driver would be joining the likes of Bart Starr, Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi and Reggie White, among many others, in the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
Driver and University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan have been selected as the 2016 inductees into the state’s Hall, which is undergoing a revival and has not inducted any members beyond its current 135 since 2009.
For Driver, the Packers’ all-time leader in pass receptions and receiving yards, it’s an honor to be a part of that, as well as to share company with two dozen other Packers figures and countless state sports icons such as Hank Aaron and Bonnie Blair.
“To be among that special group of people, it means the world to me, and to be right here in Wisconsin, I couldn’t have chosen a better place,” Driver said in a phone interview with packers.com.
“The more you appreciate life and all the accolades you’ve accomplished, this sits right at the top. Catching my first touchdown in 1999 as a rookie, winning the Super Bowl. Now, it gets better and better.”
The induction ceremony will take place on April 30 at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, site of the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame’s first induction event in 1951. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and various Milwaukee outlets.
The Hall’s members are commemorated with bronze plaques on the Wisconsin Athletic Walk of Fame, located on Fourth Street in downtown Milwaukee.
Driver, who retired following the 2012 season after 14 years with the Packers, will become a member of the Packers Hall of Fame soon enough, but he’s staying plenty busy in the meantime.
The former “Dancing With The Stars” champion remains a health and wellness spokesperson for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and has a health and wellness book coming out next fall. He’s also working on a clothing line and is in the process of shooting a 10-episode series entitled “The Hero Effect” with United Way Worldwide and Dolphin Digital Media.
The show, which Driver co-hosts, tells uplifting stories from all across the country of “ordinary” individuals making an “extraordinary” difference in their communities. Distribution of the show has not yet been announced.
Driver said one episode that recently finished shooting was in Dallas, where Driver himself battled poverty and homelessness as a child. The segment features the work of Chad Houser, whose Café Momentum restaurant takes in juvenile offenders and teaches them culinary skills to get a new start in life.
“It’s something I always said wanted to get into is inspiring, motivating and changing lives, and I get an opportunity to do that, interviewing these people,” Driver said. “They’re all amazing stories.”
Driver added the 2015 Packers could be on the verge of something amazing, too. He keeps in touch with all of his former receiving mates, including Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones.
He reached out to Nelson as soon as he heard about his season-ending injury in August to provide whatever encouragement he could.
“Right when it happened, I texted him, he texted back, and we had the conversation, ‘It’s going to be OK. You can bounce back from it,’” Driver said. “He’s still young. He’s not my age yet, so he still has a long way to go.
“I know Jordy. He’ll fight back and be at the highest level again that he’s been at for many years.”
Count Driver among those not surprised that Jones has made such a big impact in his return to the Packers, leading the team with six TD receptions through six games.
“I picked up the phone right after I saw he got released by the Giants and I called him and said, ‘Tell me you’re heading back to Green Bay,’” Driver said. “He smiled and laughed and said, ‘I’m on my way back now.’ So I said, ‘Welcome home.’
“The guy hasn’t missed a beat. Regardless of being released by two teams, it shows he still has it. I think James is glad to be back where it all started.”
Packers.com Driver tribute page