Green Bay wide receiver Donald Driver hasn't taken the easiest of… (Tannen Maury / EPA )
Reporting from Dallas — While the Pittsburgh Steelers ascend their stairway to seven — the relentless pursuit of their seventh Lombardi Trophy — Green Bay's Donald Driver is hoping seven's the charm.
That's how many years Driver has been in the playoffs, and now he's finally in his first Super Bowl.
"This means everything," said Driver, 36, the Packers' all-time leading receiver. "You get to a point in your career when you want to get to the big dance. The good part is that I'm finally here and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it."
The quintessential survivor, Driver grew up in Houston and spent part of his childhood homeless, at times using a U-Haul trailer for shelter. He made it to Alcorn State, from which he was drafted in the seventh round in 1999, and defied the odds to rise to the top in Green Bay, first with Brett Favre and then with Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers' longest-tenured receiver, Driver holds the club's career records for receptions (698) and needs 42 yards to surpass Hall of Famer James Lofton's career mark of 9,656 yards receiving with the franchise.
But Driver has never been this close to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, having been drafted two years after Green Bay's last Super Bowl appearance. Coach Mike McCarthy called him a mentor to the team's outstanding collection of receivers and the "ultimate true professional."
There's no denying Driver beat long odds to get this far. As children living with their mother in Houston, Driver and his four siblings were evicted from their home and spent much of their time not knowing where they would sleep that night. Sometimes, they stayed in low-budget motels. Others, in a U-Haul trailer. Donald and his older brother resorted to desperate measures to make money, among them stealing cars and selling drugs.
"I've been through a lot, but I think I've been a survivor to this point." Driver told SI.com. "When you go through things in life, you try to figure out what the main focus is, and that is all about survival. There are going to be things, and adversity, that you face throughout your life. But it's about how you come through those times."
Driver's mother eventually allowed her sons to live with their paternal grandparents, and that marked the beginning of the boys' turnaround. They were provided structure and discipline, and sports became their focus. That helped pave Driver's path to college, and ultimately the NFL.
"When I got drafted in 1999, I got the number 13," said Driver, who now wears No. 80. "When I got here there were 13 receivers, and that's why I think they gave me that number. I think I was probably the No. 13 receiver. But when it was all said and done, they said I made the team."
He eventually emerged as one of the league's toughest and most reliable receivers. Driver and Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne are the NFL's only receivers to have 1,000-yard seasons every year from 2004 through 2009.
Of staying with the Packers throughout his career, Driver said: "You dream of that. Most guys don't get an opportunity to be with a team as long as I have.
"I've been with the Packers for 12 years, and the opportunity now is that I get to finish my career with Green Bay."
That doesn't mean he plans to stay in Wisconsin. He's planning to move back to Texas when he retires. He'll be in the Dallas area, in fact, where he currently spends his off-seasons.
"I stayed in Green Bay nine years and dealt with all the cold weather," he said. "As a Southern boy, you want to be able to get away from all of that."
He joked, of course, that he brought the Green Bay weather with him to Dallas, where the temperatures have been frigid this week.
Now, he's hoping to bring something much more appealing back to Green Bay: a trophy.