GREEN BAY — Lance Kendricks is coming home.
The Milwaukee native and Rufus King High School graduate signed with the Packers Saturday, bringing the University of Wisconsin alumnus back to his home state after spending his first six NFL seasons with the Rams.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound tight end was raised a Packers fan, constantly glued to the TV screen on Sundays. When he was a teenager, he even competed in a Punt, Pass & Kick competition at the Don Hutson Center.
So you could imagine how excited his parents and family members were when Kendricks called to tell them he was signing with his childhood team.
“They’re excited,” said Kendricks, who purposely shared the news with only a few family members. “It means a lot since I grew up watching the Packers, and my family and friends, they’re all big Packers fans. It means a lot to be able to represent Green Bay and this community and this culture, and everything it stands for.”
Kendricks, 29, has started 79 of the 93 games he’s played in the NFL, catching 204 passes for 2,132 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had a career-high 50 receptions this past season for 499 yards and two touchdowns.
A graduate of Rufus King High School, Kendricks was a four-star recruit for the University of Wisconsin in 2006. He caught 78 passes for 1,160 yards (14.9 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns in 35 games (20 starts) for the Badgers.
Getting a chance to play at Lambeau Field twice in his NFL career, Kendricks said the passion of the Packers’ fan base was similar to what he experienced during his five years in Madison.
“Just the tradition and culture here of people loving the game of football,” Kendricks said. “I went to Madison. It’s a very similar, if not the same, culture of people being passionate for their Badgers or Packers or whatever it is. That and seeing how much fun the players have.”
Kendricks flew into Green Bay on Friday night before meeting with the team Saturday. His conversation with the coaching staff and personnel department confirmed Green Bay was the right fit.
Studying the Packers in the film room over the past few seasons, Kendricks saw what the offense was capable of with Aaron Rodgers under center.
“We’d watch a lot of film of the Packers to watch Aaron Rodgers and how he was able to get his guys open,” Kendricks said. “Not only them getting open, but him being able to separate the defender from the ball and make things happen with his feet, and extend the play, and draw the defense offside. There’s so much stuff that he does that’s really amazing and really intriguing.”
Known as an athletic receiving target – he competed on Wisconsin’s track team in 2007 – Kendricks believes his skill set should be a perfect fit for Green Bay’s system, especially given how popular tight ends typically have been in the Packers’ offense.
“I know they love their tight ends and I know they love getting the ball to their tight ends,” Kendricks said. “I think they’re excited to be able to utilize me because I played in so many different formations. I kind of line up all over the place. I think they’ll find something I’m really good at or a few things I’m really good at and they’ll be able to utilize that and implement that into the system.”
Kendricks didn’t cross paths with Martellus Bennett, who flew out of Green Bay Friday after reaching an agreement with the Packers. However, Kendricks is excited about the dimension he and Bennett could add to an offense that’s also returning third-year tight end Richard Rodgers.
“I think we both have our own assets,” said Kendricks of Bennett. “He’s a very good down the field catcher. He’s a big target and I can work the seams, as well. With both of us out there, I think we’ll be able to create mismatches and things we’ll be able to take advantage of. There are so many weapons on this offense and to be able to contribute to it is a great feeling.”
Another factor that played into Kendricks’ decision to sign with the Packers was the winning history. A second-round pick in 2011, Kendricks still has yet to play in an NFL playoff game.
“It definitely was a big part of my decision knowing this is a winning organization and this team has won, and will continue to win,” Kendricks said. “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that, so having the opportunity to potentially get to the playoffs and the Super Bowl, it makes you excited about football. It makes you look forward to it and wanting to be around. It’s a great time.”
Kendricks lives in Calabasas, Calif., during the offseason. He’ll continue to train there, while trying to figure out where he’ll live in Green Bay when he returns for April’s offseason program.
One thing is certain – he won’t need to find a place in Milwaukee. While his parents, Linda and Leon, have since retired to Florida, they still own his childhood home. His brother, Landon, also lives in Milwaukee.
“They’ll have a reason to come back now,” said Kendricks of his parents. “We still have our home in Milwaukee, so I’m sure the house will be packed. If not, they’ll be here.”