Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Tebow? Wisconsin has it's own hero in Driver

by John Halverson

January 26, 2012

“Do you know that DD’s first or second year, maybe 1999 or 2000, a few Packers came up to LG and played basketball in the gym at the Middle School for some event. I don’t remember what it was, but Driver was here and he had the skinniest legs, but was amazingly athletic and dunked a few times. At the time, most people didn’t even know who he was. Unbelievable that he turned out to be one of the greatest Packer players ever.”

The “DD” in this story is Packer receiver Donald Driver. And this was going to be a sports story about how the Packers are faced with the dilemma of keeping Driver, an aging hero, or let him go. It turned into more when Editor Lisa Seiser sent me an e-mail sharing her story of “DD” and his visit to “LG.”

It’s appropriate that as talk started about Driver’s future, the Brewers went ahead and signed utility infielder and Wisconsin native Craig Counsel to their front office. A few weeks earlier, the Bucks hired the legendary Sydney Moncrief as an assistant coach. Class acts getting their just rewards in a state that values intangibles.

“You are right, people like DD, Counsell and Moncrief are very classy,” Seiser added in her e-mail. “They did their job well, seemed to be modest and good teammates and contributors. They weren’t spectacular, but they were consistent and always there. They were loyal, seemingly hard workers. Everyone could take a little life lesson from them.”

In this era, when we reduce everyone to the skeleton in our closet, it’s nice to know that one sports hero may actually be worthy of our admiration. Eventually we learned that the Babe Ruths and Mickey Mantles were philandering drunks, that Tiger Woods cheated on his wife and that, God forbid, even Ryan Braun may have taken performance-enhancing drugs.

Driver is different. Granted, he is only looking for a playing position not one in the front office or as a coach, which would be easier to accommodate, but I’d still like to think that intangibles mean something you can’t put in statistical form.

Driver had a rough upbringing. He could have turned into a bad apple. But shortly after his Lake Geneva visit, when a pro football income was far from assured, he was man enough to start his first charity, one of many he’s been involved with. He’s a leader in the locker room, too. He shows younger players how to carry themselves, how to be professionals.

But the cold hard fact is that he is aging. In a couple of weeks, he’ll turn 37. While it’s nice to say he was the only Packer who performed well in the season ending loss to the New York Giants, truth is, he was covered by a linebacker not a fleet cornerback, a recognition of his diminishing skills. And his position is well-stocked with younger players. Keeping him on the team probably means one of those deserving hopefuls will be cut.

To his credit, Packer General Manager Ted Thompson, has built a winner by valuing practicality over sentiment. Brett Favre was jettisoned in favor of a younger Aaron Rodgers. Popular defensive lineman Aaron Kampman was let go, too. They turned out to be the right moves.

Donald Driver is a different story. I’d like to think there’s still room for a great contributor to the community, a leader in the locker room, and an all-around class act. Those qualities mean something to the heart of a team, especially one with the rich tradition of the Green Bay Packers. And, ultimately, heart wins football games as much as talent.

In the year of Tebow, Green Bay has its own, quieter light. The Packers shouldn’t let it go out.

Halverson is the general manager of the Regional News.