Lombardi: The Donald

Driver one of the few that have succeeded in NFL out of hard-to-find Alcorn State

I remember the first and only time I met Donald Driver. It was at Alcorn State. He was a rising junior and I was there to look at some tape on the whole team. There are some schools that scouts visit that make their job difficult. Alcorn State is one of those schools.

I had to look this up, but knew it in my gut. According to NFL.com since 1982, only 14 players have been taken in the draft out of Alcorn, and none since 1999, when Driver went in the seventh round to Green Bay. You have to go there, because every now and then they get a Steve McNair or John Thierry, guys who go in the first round, but usually there is not a lot there.

Alcorn State is way out there in the middle of nowhere, down a two lane road deep in western Mississippi. I used to stay in Vicksburg, which was nice. I style myself as an amateur Civil War historian, so I could roam the battlefield in my free time. But heading to Alcorn was usually depressing, because I expected it to be a wasted trip.

This time was different. I will not lie to you and say that I ever figured that Driver would be this good. He has surpassed everyone's expectations.

I would love to report that I saw a future NFL star that day, but I did not. He was a fine player, but I probably would have drafted him in precisely the same spot the Packers did.

He did not have any buzz. He was just a name on the roster. The coaches told me that I should look at because he was a decathlete. So I did and he had some upside. I ran into him in the locker room and had a chance to talk to him directly. He impressed me with his candor and his demeanor. Since that day, I have followed his career.

I was happy to see he recently received a raise. As much as any football player deserves the money he makes, it is Driver. He has played hard and produced for years. It took him a few years to break into the lineup, but once he did, he has caught over 70 passes in three of the last four years for over 1,000 yards each of those years. The only year he did not was the one where he hurt his neck on a catch early in the year and it nagged him for awhile. He still caught 52 passes that year.

In addition to that he has been a good citizen and a good teammate. His Donald Driver Foundation is instrumental in helping homeless families find housing and to improve their lives through educational opportunities. Driver knows what it is like to be homeless having had to live out of a U-Haul for a while in his teens and bouncing around shelters and hotels. This lead to a life of drug dealing and car theft. Once he moved in with his grandmother, he got on the right course, caught a break with athletics and used his life to help others.

So in the midst of the Javon Walker hissy fit, Driver just kept playing, made plays and eventually he was rewarded. He has had four good years, Walker one. Driver seemed to want to be here, Walker did not. Driver gave back to the fans, Walker took. Walker is probably more explosive than Driver and if he gets healthy, he will probably catch more passes. But Driver will be the better deal for the Packer. He will give almost as much productivity, for less money and less hassle.

It is nice to see a guy who works hard, battled adversity and played by the rules get the recognition he deserves. Driver is such a guy. I wish him well and look forward to seeing him catch some more passes from No. 4. Sometimes, good guys do finish first.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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