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A star is born: During a ‘quiet big-time year,’ Packers wide receiver Davante Adams earns the respect he craves

December 14, 2018
Adams

GREEN BAY — Davante Adams isn’t worried about being picked for the Pro Bowl. Or being named All-Pro. Or getting his own reality TV show. Or signing an endorsement deal with Head & Shoulders shampoo, like Odell Beckham Jr. has.

Well, wait a second on that last one.

“I’ll take a Head & Shoulders commercial. I will take that,” the Green Bay Packers star wide receiver corrected with a laugh. “I didn’t say I don’t want endorsements. I said I don’t want to be a celebrity. But if Head & Shoulders wants to put me on a commercial … I’ve got some nice hair, too.”

The remark came at the end of a lengthy locker-room conversation about the out-of-this-world season he’s had — despite the Packers’ struggles as a team — and what might come with his breakout year. He enters Sunday’s game at Chicago having caught 92 passes for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns, putting him within striking distance of several single-season franchise records: He needs 21 catches to break the team record for receptions (112 by Sterling Sharpe in 1993), 324 yards to break the team record for receiving yards (1,519 by Jordy Nelson in 2014) and six touchdowns to match the team record for TD catches (18 by Sharpe in 1994).

Those numbers have led to a discussion about where Adams ranks among the NFL’s top wideouts — in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ biased opinion, that’d be No. 1 — which in turn led to Adams explaining what motivates him. And all shampoo jokes aside, that’s not what it’s about.

“What I care about is getting the respect,” Adams said. “Obviously, I take it really seriously — what I do and put it into my game. So I just want the respect. I just want the notoriety of what I’m doing. It’s not about being a celebrity. I don’t want to host the Grammys or stuff like that. I don’t want to take it any further than football. That’s all it is for me. It’s about getting better and making sure I keep showing it. It’s not about anything further.

“A lot of people want to be considered at the top, so they get paid at the top, so they can live a certain type of lifestyle. I’m not interested in doing anything different than what I’ve been doing. I just want people to respect me.

“I mean, I talk to guys on other teams and they give me respect and let me know what they feel about me, but … I don’t know, it’s tough because I don’t want to sit here and talk about myself about that because it’s kind of awkward. At the end of the day, I’m confident in my ability. It feels good when other people acknowledge it, but I’m not thirsty for it.”

Adams surely gets that respect from Rodgers, who didn’t need Adams to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time to feel so strongly about him. Rodgers was among those who saw Adams being destined for stardom as a rookie in 2014 — Rodgers compared Adams to future Pro Football Hall of Famers Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers in the way he carried himself — and while Rodgers has paid Adams constant compliments all season, veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb said it’s been something Rodgers has done that has spoken volumes.

“I think it’s amazing, the season he’s had. And I think the most amazing part about it is, I would say this is the first time Aaron’s been comfortable going to someone who is getting double coverage,” Cobb said Thursday. “I think that goes to show just how much he trusts Davante in those situations.

“If you think about it before, there hasn’t been a year where there’s essentially been one guy getting the majority of the targets. Unfortunately, I’ve been out and we have three rookies that have made strides and had opportunities throughout the season but are still learning. He’s getting the bulk of the targets. And he’s making plays with all those targets.”

Cobb is right. Adams entered the week having been targeted on 138 passes, with only Atlanta’s Julio Jones (144), Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (142) and Minnesota’s Adam Thielen (141) being targeted more often. With Cobb missing six games with a hamstring injury and third receiver Geronimo Allison out for the year following surgery for a core muscle injury, Rodgers has spent much of the season with rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown as his second and third options. Another rookie, J’Mon Moore, has scarcely played, while former UW-Whitewater standout Jake Kumerow just came off injured reserve two weeks ago.

According to Pro Football Reference, when Sharpe set the franchise record for receptions in 1993, he was targeted 189 times — an astronomical number, even considering it was early in quarterback Brett Favre’s development into a three-time NFL MVP. The next year, when Sharpe caught 94 balls, he was targeted 159 times.

When Nelson set the franchise record for receiving yards in 2014, it came during a season when both Cobb (91 catches, 1,287 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Nelson (98 catches, 1,519 yards, 13 touchdowns) were targeted often. (Adams was a rookie that season.) That year, Nelson was targeted 151 times, Cobb 127 and Adams 66 while catching 38 passes for 446 yards and three TDs.

After Adams this season, tight end Jimmy Graham is next with 77 targets, followed by Valdes-Scantling (53), Cobb (49), running back Aaron Jones (35), Allison (30) and St. Brown (28).

Asked why he’s thrown such a disproportionate number of passes to Adams, Rodgers’ answer was simple.

“It’s been his greatness. It really has,” Rodgers said. “Even with Randall and Geronimo out there more, the ball still has to go his way. It does.

“The ball’s going to go his way. Everybody knows it. It’s just allowing him to get in his comfort zone and putting the ball in places where he can go get it. But he has a wide catch radius, obviously he’s done some great things in the red zone, scares you with the number of different routes — not me, but he scares people guarding him, I’m sure — he can run, and he’s having a — I think it’s safe to say — a quiet big-time year this year.”

Perhaps after this season — Adams, who went to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement last year, is likely to be picked for the game next week — it won’t be so quiet.

“The second this guy walked in the building, you could see it. He had flashes of it his rookie year, but his ability is what we’re all witnessing right now,” Cobb said. “I’m just proud. I feel like a proud brother, to see him go through so much adversity early on in his career and be able to arrive at this moment. Because it really is amazing.”

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