GREEN BAY – Malachi Dupre recalls the day vividly.
Just a couple of weeks into his college career at LSU, Dupre was sent in with the first-team offense against the first-team defense in seven-on-seven.
Looking to make a strong early impression as one of the top receiver prospects in the country, according to several scouting services, Dupre glanced across the line of scrimmage. The opposing cornerbacks were Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White, a pair of freshman starters for the Tigers the year before.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Dupre said. “The first couple reps, I barely got off the ball, and I was like, ‘This is not high school anymore.’”
Dupre can be forgiven, as Robinson became a 2016 fourth-round draft pick and part-time starter as a rookie for San Francisco last season. White was just drafted in the first round last month, with the 27th overall pick by Buffalo.
It was a rude awakening to a changing game for Dupre, but he rebounded nicely.
“Coming out of high school, things came relatively easy to me out there, but getting to college, it was just not working,” he said of the early frustrations. “But I got my feet under myself, came back and scored a few touchdowns that day.
“So that was my welcome, and also my confidence-builder at the same time.”
Dupre went on to catch 98 passes for 1,609 yards and 14 touchdowns over three seasons for the Tigers, entering the draft a year early.
Given his initial college experience, if the seventh-round draft pick’s transition to the NFL has some rough moments – which it almost certainly will – Dupre will make sure it doesn’t get him down.
As the last of 32 receivers taken in the draft, at No. 247 overall, Dupre won’t sell his chances short. He comes from a conference, the SEC, that features more pro-style than spread schemes and had seven defensive backs taken in the first 53 picks in the draft.
He also went toe-to-toe with White on a daily basis for three years at LSU, starting with that memorable day as a freshman.
“If we did one-on-ones, I’d go against him,” Dupre said. “Seven-on-seven, I’d try to go up against him as much as possible. I had hundreds and hundreds of reps against him.
“Going against a guy that’s as physically gifted as he is and as smart as he is definitely was a challenge, but I feel like I got better, and in my opinion, he’s one of the best out there.”
Dupre’s career has practically run the gamut already, from a top-rated prep prospect to nearly undrafted, but he’s taken it all in stride.
He was processing a lot of emotions on the third day of the draft, as it was going by without his name being called. Choosing his destination as a rookie free agent wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, but he’s grateful for the call from Green Bay, feeling he “couldn’t have ended up in a better place.”
How the pecking order at receiver for the Packers shakes out this summer remains to be seen. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams are the veteran regulars, Jeff Janis has three years in Aaron Rodgers’ offense under his belt, Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis both had big moments as rookies last season, with Dupre and fifth-round pick DeAngelo Yancey added in the draft.
It’s a crowded depth chart already, even before two undrafted rookies in Marshall’s Michael Clark and Georgia Southern’s Montay Crockett, plus practice-squad holdover Max McCaffrey are accounted for.
No, this isn’t college anymore. But Dupre won’t be backing down. He learned how to fight through it once before.
“At the end of the day, that room is very competitive,” he said of the receiving corps. “They’re all here, and I’m here for a reason … I’m honored to be in the room with those guys, but at the same time, I’m here to compete.”