GREEN BAY – Devante Mays has waited and waited in hopes of his first shot at playing time.
That opportunity the Packers rookie running back has coveted could come as early as this Sunday against Baltimore with Aaron Jones out with a knee injury and Ty Montgomery missing Wednesday’s practice with a rib injury.
A seventh-round pick out of Utah State, Mays was the third and final running back the Packers selected in the 2017 NFL Draft behind Jamaal Williams (fourth) and Jones (fifth).
At 5-10, 230, Mays made the roster on the strength of his bruising running style, but depth at running back has limited Mays’ chances since the regular season began.
Mays has played 20 snaps on special teams in three games and hasn’t played since the Packers’ Week 5 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 8.
However, he may be on call this Sunday after Head Coach Mike McCarthy confirmed Jones will miss “multiple weeks” with the knee injury he sustained Sunday in Chicago.
“I’ve really been waiting for this opportunity,” Mays said. “I’m doing the same thing I would normally do. I come to work and work hard. This week, I have to do a little bit more than normal but it’s the same job.”
After a string of injuries decimated the backfield for the Packers in 2016, the organization took no chances in drafting Williams, Jones and Mays to fill out the backfield behind Montgomery and fullback Aaron Ripkowski.
Mays alternated with Jones as the No. 3 back near the end of training camp and through the first week of the regular season before Jones emerged as a playmaker in relief of an injured Montgomery and Williams against Chicago (13 carries for 49 yards, TD) in Week 4 and Dallas (19-125-1) one week later.
Playing the waiting game hasn’t been an issue for Mays, whose upbringing taught him to be patient. While waiting for their opportunity, he and Williams continue motivating each other in the meeting room and on the practice field.
Williams finally received his shot last Sunday against Chicago, carrying the ball 20 times for 67 yards after Montgomery and Jones exited in the first half and didn’t return.
“He’s always been ready for his time,” said Williams of Mays. “Right now, he’s in the same position I was. Anytime you can be brought up. His time comes, be ready for it and I know he’ll be ready for it. So, it’s not going to be a surprise to me.
“There’s a lot of dogs who have been waiting to get their chance and most of us are getting our chance now.”
Mays played at two different junior colleges before landing at Utah State in 2015, where he was teammates with current Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell and safety Marwin Evans.
In his first year at the school, Mays led the Aggies with 966 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. While his senior season was limited to only six games, he rushed for a career-high 208 yards against Weber State.
Mays lived up to his “Bull” nickname during training camp and preseason, where he produced 99 yards on 21 touches.
“He’s a big guy. I think people kind of forget he’s pretty fast, too,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “He hits the hole pretty hard. We’ve seen that a little bit. If he comes in the game, we’re going to expect him to not only know his stuff, but to be able to execute and come to play because obviously we’re going to need all three of the rookies now.”
The Packers are coming off one of their best ground performances of the season after rushing for 160 yards on a season-high 37 carries as a team in Sunday’s win over the Bears.
The recent uptick in the run game comes at a perfect time for backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who parlayed the production into his best performance (110.8 passer rating) so far.
Mays’ mindset isn’t any different than any other week. His sense of urgency is the same it’s been all season. If No. 32 gets called against the Ravens, he’s ready to produce.
“This week obviously I have to do a little bit more, but my job is the same job,” Mays said. “I go at it like I always will.”