Rivera an all-pro on, off the field

Lineman worked his way up the ladder as one of team's top linemen, says Packer Report's Todd Korth

Like Mark Tauscher and Scott Wells, Marco Rivera was a late-round draft pick for the Packers who defied the odds of playing, much less starting, and turned into a fixture on Green Bay's offensive line.

Rivera officially retired as a Packer today, joining Rob Davis and Brett Favre as the latest players to depart from football as a member of the Packers. While Favre is pondering a possible comeback, Rivera, who played for the Packers from 1996-2004,is officially finished after spending two injury riddled seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2005-06).

"To retire as a Packer in my book is the greatest thing you can say as a football player in the NFL," said Rivera. "It's an honor and a privilege to retire and become a member of the Packers alumni with all the great players I played with and those that came before me."

Nothing came easy for Rivera. After he was basically red-shirted as a rookie, he played in the then-World League before he eventually cracked into the Packers' starting lineup in 1998. While he minded his own business among teammates early on in his career, Rivera turned into a vocal leader of the team before he eventually was named to the Pro Bowl for three straight years (2002-04).

To the dismay of many Packers fans, newly hired general manager Ted Thompson decided not to re-sign Rivera as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason of 2005. Instead, Rivera signed an $11 million contract with Dallas Cowboys.

In fact, soon after Rivera signed with the Cowboys in March of 2005, he injured his back and suffered a herniated disk that required surgery on March 10. Rivera offered to give back his $9 million signing bonus, though, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys declined.

Maybe Thompson knew something about Rivera's health, but his decison to shy away from re-signing Rivera at the time turned out to be brilliant. Now, both Rivera and Thompson are back together again in Green Bay.

Rivera told Mike Sherman during the 2004 season that he wanted to retire as a Packer. Today he backed up his word.

"Marco was the consummate professional," said Thompson. "His toughness and approach to the game of football provided a great model for his teammates, as did his dedication to charitable work. We're happy to welcome Marco as a member of our alumni."

Only one other Packers guard has started more consecutive years than Rivera since 1958 (Jerry Kramer, nine from 1958-1966).

Not only was Rivera a locker room leader, he was dependable. He started 99 consecutive games (106 including postseason) and played through an assortment of injuries, including torn ligaments in both knees at one point. For his efforts, his teammates voted him as the Packers' 2004 ‘Ed Block Courage Award' recipient.

Rivera was recognized often for his charitable work, including the Packers' 2004 ‘Walter Payton Man of the Year' award. He conducted a popular youth football clinic in Puerto Rico, established ‘The Marco Rivera Outreach Foundation' to work with Green Bay-area charities and took part in an NFL-sponsored USO trip to visit troops in Kuwait and Qatar.

Rivera is truly an all-around good guy who made the most of his ability to play football. He's the kind of blue-collar player every team wants on the field and in the locker room.

Confident, quick-witted and a little cocky, but down to earth, likable, funny and thankful for his upbringing and good fortune - that's Rivera. The Packers were fortunate to have him on their side through the prime years of his career and now in his post-career.

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