Jeff Janis had a slow start to his training camp because he battled shingles. However, he came on strong at the end. Kyle Engman photograph

The Long Road to the NFL: Jeff Janis

Over the last decade, the Green Bay Packers have made it a tradition of finding talented wide receivers in the second round of the draft – players including Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and this year’s draft pick Davante Adams.

But despite the addition of Adams this year, it appears as if the Packers have struck gold twice, this time later in the draft.

When looking at former Saginaw Valley State University wide receiver Jeff Janis, you wouldn’t get the impression that he would have been selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft.

Janis has the attributes of a prototypical NFL wide receiver at 6-3, a bulky 219 pounds, can run the 40 yard dash in 4.4 seconds and has a 38-inch vertical leap.

So why wasn’t Janis drafted earlier?

Janis grew up in Tawas City, Mich., a city with a population of just 2,000 people near Lake Huron. While there, Janis didn’t begin to stand out as a football player until his junior year in high school and was hindered due to a broken finger in his senior year. Despite the injury, Janis still played, converting to running back and still managed to lead his team in rushing.

By this time, Janis had missed out on gaining the attention of all the Division I schools and ended up going to Saginaw Valley State University, a Division II school.

At SVSU, Janis continued to grow physically, gaining 40 pounds of bulk and increasing his overall speed to a 4.42 second 40-yard dash by the time he reached the NFL Combine.

While not making much of an impact his freshman season, Janis exploded during his sophomore season, gaining 968 yards receiving on just 48 catches, a 20.2 yard average per-catch. He also racked up 14 receiving touchdowns in the process. By this time, Janis was 6-3 and 220 pounds, and was no match for Division II cornerbacks.

Janis finished out his last two seasons with a combined total of 189 catches for 3,207 yards and 31 touchdowns – numbers that would have put Janis in the top three wide receivers of Division I college football in 2012 and 2013. The only two wide receivers who did better statistically last year were Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) and the Packers’ own second round pick, Davante Adams (Fresno State).

Janis ended his career at SVSU as the record holder for most receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns in a game as well as most receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns all time record for SVSU. Janis also left SVSU with a degree in Exercise Science.

This put Janis in a bar back in his hometown of Tawas City on May 10, watching the NFL Draft with more than 100 friends and family.

In the sixth round, Janis began receiving calls. Unfortunately for Janis, they were teams calling for him if he hit free agency.

Denver, Miami, Oakland, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay all wanted him to sign if he went undrafted.

But Janis never went undrafted, finally receiving a phone call from the Green Bay Packers.

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Janis readies himself for practice earlier this month. Kyle Engman photograph

Entering his rookie season with the Packers, Janis is expected to be a mold of teammate Jordy Nelson. Almost a Jordy Nelson 2.0 in a sense, being faster, stronger, and more athletic.

Janis showed up for OTAs regularly and demonstrated some of his incredible work ethic early on in the offseason. Unfortunately for the beginning of training camp, Janis was sidelined with a case of shingles.

The illness left Janis on the sidelines and caused him to miss the first preseason game. Many fans and analysts figured it would be tough for Janis to catch up after missing the first two weeks of camp and may have been a tough decision for the Packers come cut day. Janis once again proved them wrong.

Janis debuted in the second preseason game against the Rams. From that point he recorded 34- and 33-yard touchdown catches during the preseason, as well as turning in a 62-yard kickoff return.

Coming into the 2014 season, in a Packers offense where spreading the ball around is a normality, Janis may see more opportunities at the fifth receiver spot than many think. Janis is in line to work on punt and kick returns as well.

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Jeff Janis rides to practice earlier this month. Kyle Engman photograph

In the event that Nelson, Cobb, or Boykin go down, Janis could flourish, possibly even more than rookie teammate Davante Adams. In the long term, it seems Adams, Janis, and Abbrederis are the wide receivers of the future. With Cobb’s long-term status in uncertainty and entering a contract year, there may be chances to move up by next season.

Overall, the Packers may have more in Janis than they realize. If he gets the chance to get on the field, he’ll make plays and may end up being the next best wide receiver since Green Bay drafted Donald Driver in 1999.

Featured Article Images taken by Kyle Engman


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