Green Bay Packer Wide Receiver Donald Driver Joins Season 14 Dancing with the Stars Cast

Season 14 Dancing with the Stars Cast clockwise from top left: Melissa Gilbert, Maria Menounos, Martina Navratilova, Sherri Shepherd, Katherine Jenkins, Gladys Knight, William Levy,  Donald Driver, Gavin DeGraw, Jaleel White, Roshon Fegan,Jack Wagner
Season 14 Dancing with the Stars Cast clockwise from top left: Melissa Gilbert, Maria Menounos, Martina Navratilova, Sherri Shepherd, Katherine Jenkins, Gladys Knight, William Levy, Donald Driver, Gavin DeGraw, Jaleel White, Roshon Fegan,Jack Wagner

ABC recently announced the cast for the 14th season of Dancing with the Stars on February 28, 2012. Green Bay Packer wide receiver Donald Driver is one of the 12 celebrities who will contend for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy. You may know him as the guy who received Brett Favre’s passes year after year and Aaron Rodger’s passes in the 2011 XLV Super Bowl, but Donald Driver’s story before the NFL is much more compelling.

Donald grew up poor—dirt poor. His story is very similar to that of Michael Oher’s (The Blind Side). His parents divorced when he was quite young. His father wound up in jail and his mother struggled to support her brood of five.

Pro dancer Peta Murgatroyd will be Donald's partner and dancing instructor
Pro dancer Peta Murgatroyd will be Donald's partner and dancing instructor

There were times without food and electricity, and even times without a home. Donald recalls a time when they were living out of a U-haul trailer. When he sees a U-haul now, it reminds him of those days and how far he has come.

When Donald became a teenager, he and his older brother Marvin III began selling drugs and stealing cars in a misguided attempt to help the family financially.

One day Donald stole a car and was trying to escape the police. He ran into an older woman who was backing out of her driveway. He leaped out of the stolen vehicle and tried to escape on foot. His conscience began to bother him as he ran, and felt compelled to check on the woman to see if she was hurt. But by then he was within a hair’s breadth of the police.

Donald and brother Marvin III
Donald and brother Marvin III
Donald was also a celebrated high jumper in college.  He could have joined the 2000 Olympic Team if he had not signed with the Packers in 1999.
Donald was also a celebrated high jumper in college. He could have joined the 2000 Olympic Team if he had not signed with the Packers in 1999.
Donald's mother Faye Gray is president of the Donald Driver Foundation
Donald's mother Faye Gray is president of the Donald Driver Foundation

The woman told him to go sit on her porch. Something inside Donald told him to trust her. Within seconds the police arrived. The woman told the police that the man who ran into her had escaped. They inquired about the young man on her porch. She said it was her grandson.

As soon as the police were gone, the woman began to scold Donald for the decisions he was making in his life when he could amount to so much more. The woman’s concern helped Donald to get back on the right path. He still keeps in contact with her and visits her when he goes back to Houston, Texas.

One day Donald made up his mind that he was going to “make it.” He saw how some athletes were able to pull themselves out of poverty by playing professionally. He was going to work so hard so that his family would not have to live this way anymore. He began to go to class regularly, do his school homework and work really hard at sports. Instead of chasing girls, he lifted weights. His brother Marvin has said that from that day on, Donald never stopped working hard.

Donald Driver making a touchtown catch for the Green Bay Packers
Donald Driver making a touchtown catch for the Green Bay Packers

When Donald was 14, his mother decided to send him and brother Marvin III to live with their grandmother. Their grandmother provided more structure in their lives. She also made them go to church and Bible studies.

Donald began to excel at sports from the day he entered his new school Milby High School in Houston, Texas. He lettered in track, football, basketball and baseball all four years.

His father was also an impressive football player who could have made the pros but never had the right opportunity. Watching tapes of his father spurred Donald’s interest in football.

Donald Driver and the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV in 2011
Donald Driver and the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV in 2011

His hard work paid off when he was offered a four-year scholarship to Alcorn State University. There, Donald excelled at high jumping in addition to football. If he had not joined the NFL, he would have qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sidney.

In his senior year of college, Donald entered the 1999 NFL Draft and was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the final seventh round as the 213th pick. Donald has remained with the Packers his entire professional football career. He holds the team’s record for the most passes received. He has been to three Pro Bowls and won the Packer’s MVP award in 2002. The team’s 2011 Super Bowl win was the highlight of his career.

Donald Driver with his Wife Betina, son Cristian 7, and daughter Christina 5
Donald Driver with his Wife Betina, son Cristian 7, and daughter Christina 5

Thirteen years later, Donald has achieved his dream of helping his family rise out of poverty. He has also been able to help many others. In 2000, he set up the Donald Driver Foundation to help homeless families and appointed his mother as the president of the organization. His foundation has provided many families with homes and educational scholarships. It also provides computers for inner city schools and assists children with huge medical bills.

He received the “Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2002 to honor his community work. This is an NFL award that recognizes community service.

Donald and his wife Betina met at Alcorn State. They were married in 2000 and they now have a seven-year-old son name Cristian and a five-year-old daughter named Christina. They renewed their vows on their 10-year anniversary.

Donald has also written several children’s books. When he was a youngster, his mother had nicknamed him “Quickie” because of how difficult it was to catch him. Donald’s books center around a character named “Quickie” and his exploits. They are based on bedtime stories he has told to his own two children. They are available on Amazon (see on the right).

Football players have historically done well on DWTS. For this reason, the odds are in Donald’s favor. Other retired or current NFL players who have participated on the show include Michael Irvin, Chad Ochocinco, Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp, Emmitt Smith, Jason Taylor, Lawrence Taylor, Kurt Warner and Hines Ward. Both Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward won the Mirror Ball Trophy during their stints on the show.

Peta Murgatroyd, DWTS pro dancer with the delightful Aussie accent who will be returning for her second season with the show, will be Donald’s partner. The partners have already begun practicing but the first show will air on Monday, March 19 on ABC at 8 pm EST/ 7 pm CST.

Word has it that Donald was selected after Victor Cruz turned down DWTS to focus on football. Pro dancer Cheryl Burke had stated publicly that she wanted to have Cruz as a dancing partner on the show after seeing his salsa moves in the end zone at a football game.

Check out Donald’s website: http://www.donalddriver80.com/

******************************************************************************************************** ***NEWS FLASH***UPDATE: Donald Driver and his pro partner Peta Murgatroyd were just announced (5/22/12) as the winners of the 14th season of DWTS! Congrats Donald! His mother had commented last week on the show how nice that mirror ball trophy would look beside his Super Bowl trophy.

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