Today Packer Nation will say thank you and so long (but not good-bye) to Donald Driver.
Double-D. Number 80. Quickie. Thanks for the memories and God's speed for your future.
Over 1,000 of the Packer faithful will fill the Atrium at Lambeau Field, while thousands more will gather around radios and televisions to send off their most successful wide receiver. But why? Why and how has a homeless kid from Houston grabbed the hearts of stoic Wisconsinites and become one of the most endearing figures in the state?
It could be his tremendous contributions to our beloved team - seven 1,000 yard seasons; 743 receptions (a team record), 10,137 receiving yards (another team record) and most games played by a wide receiver. He has been a leader on a team that drafted him in the final round in 1999 and where he had to fight to even make the team his rookie year. That tenacity and work ethic to make the team and lead the Packers to winning seasons and motivate the Pack to the 2010 Super Bowl victory are just some reasons Packer nation loves Double-D.
Or it could be his increased popularity due to his participation on Dancing with the Stars. Here again he went from being in the bottom two during the first week of competition to winning the glittering disco ball trophy, all the time showing off that winning smile with a wattage higher than the diamonds in his ears. And once the ladies saw what had been hiding under that Packer jersey all these years, let's just say we were hooked!
Driver is also beloved because he chose to retire in Packers' Green and Gold and not take off for Viking-land, a mortal sin that has been committed by other former teammates (Brent who?).
"I played my entire career in Green Bay and have always enjoyed a special bond with the fans," Driver told ESPN Radio. "I can think of no better way to retire than to celebrate with them and the Packer's organization."
That one decision has solidified Driver's place in many Cheesehead hearts.
But the real reason people have said Driver is one of the most beloved players on a team full of legends and favorites is his life off the field of competition. Family and charity are the real reasons Donald Driver will be remembered and idolized for years to come in Wisconsin and throughout the NFL.
As one of five siblings living on the streets in Houston, Driver learned the value of sticking with his family and being there for each other. He demonstrates that daily with his own family - wife Benita and his three children - by including them in his activities, doing family-friendly charitable work and showing that a man (especially a black man) can and should be in the lives of his children.
It was that love for his children and children everywhere that he took the bedtime stories he tells his kids and turned them into best selling books focused on "Quickie", his childhood nickname. These books teach children and adults about the importance of teamwork, family, responsibility and education - all values that everyone can relate to and emulate.
And those books were not just for his own financial improvement. Instead the proceeds and the proceeds from his annual softball game, celebrity night and Evening of Elegance night go to the Donald Driver Foundation.
This is where Driver's values meet the road. The foundation supports homeless families and educational initiatives in Northeastern Wisconsin and Houston, things that have touched Driver personally. And the foundations purpose of providing a "hand up" and not a "hand out" appeals to the hard-working, work-ethic, lunch-box carrying fans across Packer Nation.
Even Double-D's mom knows he's a good man doing good things.
"It's a wonderful feeling to know he has such a heart for other people," Faye Gay Driver said. "As his mom, I'm so incredibly proud. We were homeless at one time and God gave us something. The least we can do is give someone else the break they need."
So it is being a good man, a caring man, a man with a heart that has solidified Driver's place in the Packer Nation. And while his exploits on the field will eventually put him in the Hall of Fame and on the ring around Lambeau Field, it is his selfless character and charity that will keep him in the company of Packer greats.
God speed, Donald. God speed.
Patti Breitigam-Wenzel is a veteran Wisconsin journalist who blogs at GovFreak.