GREEN BAY – DeAngelo Yancey couldn’t be sure he’d ever get the chance again.
So while in Green Bay on a pre-draft visit, on a tour of the stadium that took him down the Packers’ tunnel and out onto Lambeau Field, Yancey turned toward the end zone seats and took flight.
“I was like, ‘I’m here, why not?’” Yancey said. “Gotta get a Lambeau Leap in.”
If all goes well, his first won’t be his last.
The fifth-round pick and wide receiver out of Purdue said he had “no idea” the Packers would actually draft him, but now he’s got a chance to do an end-zone celebration that really counts.
At 6-2, 220, Yancey has NFL-ready size, and he looked considerably thicker through the upper body than most receivers at the Packers’ rookie orientation.
All the measureables and statistics – including 10 touchdowns and 19.4 yards per catch in 2016 – are why he was drafted. Now, he has to show why he should get on the field as a rookie, and he’s aware of what it takes.
Dedication to the playbook. Studying his responsibilities. Eliminating mental errors, be they alignment, assignment, or execution.
“You’ve got a guy like Aaron Rodgers throwing you the ball, you want to make sure your mistakes are (at the) very, very minimum,” Yancey said. “I can’t wait to get him out there.”
That’ll come in OTAs in a couple of weeks. He’ll also get to know the Packers’ accomplished veteran receivers, two of whose lockers – Randall Cobb’s and Davante Adams’ – sandwich his, with Jordy Nelson nearby as well.
Yancey said he’s been watching Cobb since his college days at Kentucky, and judging by his comments about the mental side of the game, he’s heard at least some of what they’ve said over the years about playing with a demanding leader and signal-caller like Rodgers.
“I think it’s a great situation to be able to learn from those three core guys,” Yancey said. “Definitely playing with a guy like Aaron Rodgers is going to force me to elevate my game.”
Coming from a program that struggled to win, Yancey finished on as high a note as he could. Of his six 100-yard receiving games over his final three years at Purdue, three came in his last half dozen games, including a career-best 155-yard outing vs. Wisconsin last November.
Yancey already reminisced briefly with fellow draft pick and former Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel about that game, which Wisconsin won big. But Yancey had two over-the-top routes down the sideline that turned into a 48-yard gain and a 75-yard touchdown, showcasing the big-play ability that produced the eye-popping yards per catch number last season.
He added a second touchdown on a short pass late in the game, his third career two-TD effort.
“It was definitely one of my better games,” Yancey said. “It was the scheme they were playing us. They were playing ‘Cover-1’ with a rat in the middle, so outside guys had man-to-man coverage all game. I just tried to take advantage of my matchup.”
That rather calm, cool recollection mirrored Yancey’s approach to Day 3 of the draft. While many prospects are glued to the TV to the point of avoiding all distractions, Yancey was getting his hair done in the family living room, and when a phone call came from Green Bay’s 920 area code, he didn’t think much of it.
“On Day 2, I got a call from the Jets, and I got excited, but they just wanted some information,” he said, chuckling a bit. “So before I got excited, I just answered.”
Since then, everything about that first Lambeau Leap has been cast in a different light.
“They saw a big, physical receiver, and I guess they figured they’d give me a shot to come in and prove myself,” he said. “I’m just trying to make sure I take full advantage and do everything I can to make the roster.”