In the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to intern at a sports management agency. I'd work at the agency in the mornings, eat a sandwich at the office, then tuck my dress pants into my socks and bike to my second job as a bank teller. It was a full day, but I learned a lot about all aspects of business.
One of our clients at the agency was Donald Driver, then a star wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. When Donald would come by the office, he always had this big smile on his face, which made him easy to root for.
One of my jobs that summer was to help organize Donald's football camp. I'd compile registration forms, confirm that coaches were set to attend, and make sure we had the right equipment. My boss must've told Donald that I was an athlete because when the camp actually started, he threw me in as a coach, and I went from sitting under a shaded canopy with a clipboard to running 5-yard slants with the kids.
When camp ended for the week, he expressed his gratitude for all of the help, then said, "you hungry?"
We jumped into his Hummer and drove to a famous Mexican restaurant called La Perla on Milwaukee's south side.
I got to know Donald a bit that summer: how he had almost qualified to compete in the high jump at the Olympics, how he was homeless for a bit as a kid and lived out of a car, and how he had somehow made the Packers roster in 1999, despite being a 7th round pick. With all of the accomplishments, it was clear that he had "made it."
Even then, though, he treated me like a peer, and his constant positive attitude was something I'll always remember. That energy is just contagious.
I read Donald's book, Driven, over the weekend, and it brought back a lot of memories for me. For one, it's often easy to forget just how good he was as a football player. He set several Packers records, including the most catches (743) and yards (10,137) in Green Bay history. He often played hurt, waving off trainers and medical staff so he could stay on the field. He also played with both Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre, and it was fun to read about his respect for both men.
One of the cool things about the book is how he embraced the city of Green Bay as his home. Originally from Houston, Driver and his wife, Tina, didn't view Green Bay as a place they were stuck for 6 months out of the year. Instead, they threw themselves into the community and were proud to call it home. A lot of professional athletes today immediately leave town the day the season ends, and while we're all free to spend time wherever we want, I think it's a bit of a lost art to truly get to know a community.
When Driver retired, the Packers held an event for him at Lambeau Field, and thousands of fans showed up to pay their respects. That simply doesn't happen to athletes who fail to embrace the fans.
When Driver retired, his charisma and positive attitude would've allowed him to do a lot of things. Despite some initial hesitation from his wife, he accepted an invitation to Dancing With The Stars, where he not only competed but won the whole thing with his partner, Peta.
Driven is a fun and easy read for Packers fans and non-fans alike.
For more on Donald, check out his website at: https://www.donalddriver80.com/.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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