Following your dreams. The power of perseverance. Being a good friend.
Words to live by for Donald Driver on his journey toward becoming a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and a celebrated children’s author whose books have now been adapted for the stage by the Marcus Performing Arts Center and First Stage in Milwaukee.
Driver said the idea for his book series started simply at bedtime.
“It started with my kids, telling them stories at night, just kind of walking through the process,” he recalled. “The first book I wrote was “Quickie Makes the Team.” (It’s) all about a little kid that wasn’t the biggest kid in the world, but had the heart to play the game that he loves.”
That first book contained a lesson from his own childhood.
“It’s not about how big you are, it’s about how big your heart is. That you can go on and accomplish all the things that you want to do,” explained Driver.
Next was a book about perseverance.
“Next thing you know, it’s “Quickie Handles A Loss.” Everything we go through in life, we will lose something,” Driver admitted. “It’s just depending on what that loss is, right? We may fail a test. We may lose a game, we may lose a loved one. But regardless of what we do, we keep pushing on.”
And if you do that, you can make your dreams come true.
“Then the next one (was), “Quickie Goes to the Big Game,” he continued. “We all dream of accomplishing something big in our lives. And if you have a dream, then you follow it.”
The main character in the books is Quickie, who’s based on Driver himself. Driver’s path to football stardom wasn’t easy as a 7th round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers.
“My biggest thing was just to make the team,” confessed Driver.
That goal of just making the team seems pretty funny in hindsight, because that was just the beginning of an incredible career.
“As time went on, you started getting closer and closer to records and you start thinking that, ‘Maybe I could be one of the best receivers to ever play for the Green Bay Packers, if not the best, right?’ And I did,” he revealed. “I started to chase those goals and, all of a sudden, I was breaking records.”
When Driver retired after 14 seasons with the Packers, he held the franchise records for receptions and receiving yards. Pretty impressive when you consider his #80 Jersey was also worn by NFL Hall of Famer James Lofton.
“He said, ‘I wore the number for a long period of time, but you made the number,'” Driver remembered. “For a Hall of Famer to give you that much credit, after all the things that he’s done with the Packers, (that’s) something that I appreciate for a very long time.”
In retirement, Driver won Season 14 of Dancing with the Stars, wrote a series of children’s books, and now he’s the cultural ambassador for the Marcus Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee.
“I love theater. I love performing arts,” said Driver. “I just wanted to get more Black and Brown people in those seats. And I’ve always dreamed of ‘Quickie’ becoming a play.”
For the Marcus Performing Arts Center and First Stage to turn Driver’s books into a play, entitled “Dream, Quickie! Dream!,” they had to find the perfect playwright: Gloria Bond Clunie.
“She didn’t know me from Adam & Eve, especially not playing football,” joked Driver. “She was like,’ I don’t really know who he is.’ And then she found out I was on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and she was like, ‘I knew that was him!’ So that’s when we got connected.”
When Driver saw his books become “Dream, Quickie! Dream!” on the stage, he was amazed.
“Because they portrayed it to the T,” Driver beamed. “After the first show, I had the pleasure to just sit down with the cast and told them, ‘Thank you. Thank you for telling my story through your eyes.’ And it was amazing.”
Jeff Frank is Artistic Director at First Stage and he thinks the play contains an important message for the whole community.
“The play really ends with an opportunity for the audience to ask, ‘What are your dreams?’ If you had a dream for yourself, a dream for your community, what is it? Believe in it and get after it. Put the work in to making it happen,” Frank explained.
Kevin Giglinto, President and CEO of the Marcus Performing Arts Center, said what made this production so special is Driver himself.
“It allows someone to see themselves because they’re familiar with Donald and it makes the story more personal,” Galinto added.
And so, Driver said he hopes people who come to see the play leave with the same simple message that’s guided him through his own amazing journeys.
“If you have a dream, follow it,” Driver said. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t reach your dreams.”