GREEN BAY – Davante Adams learned a long time ago that confidence isn’t formed by a single catch or play.
It’s cultivated over time through experience and consistency. It’s about making plays when no one expects them, and believing in yourself when others don’t.
A two-star recruit out of Palo Alto (Calif.) High School, Adams reset Fresno State’s records in both career receptions (233) and touchdowns (38) in only two seasons despite those modest beginnings.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver has managed success and adversity with the same even-keeled mentality during his first two seasons with the Packers.
There have been highs – a franchise postseason record for catches and receiving yards by a rookie against Dallas in the 2014 playoffs – and lows during an injury-plagued sophomore season. Regardless, his confidence is unshaken.
“My whole life, man,” said Adams when asked about his self-confidence. “I wasn’t a five-star recruit. I didn’t go to ’Bama. I went to Fresno State and had to shine to get where I’m at today.
“Obviously coming off the season I had last year, I wasn’t proud of it. I have to do what I have to do to move forward.”
Being healthy is a good start. Adams was hampered for most of last season with an ankle injury he sustained in Week 2 against Seattle and then aggravated the following week against Kansas City.
By the time he started to feel like himself again, Adams then hurt his knee in the playoffs against Washington.
The rehab from the knee injury limited his running, so Adams picked up the weights instead. It never was his goal to build more strength, but he slowly began bulking up throughout the offseason.
Once the knee fully healed, Adams worked to balance his focus in the weight room with his speed and conditioning. Yes, it helped to get stronger, but he didn’t want it to forsake his burst and quickness.
Adams looked thicker in his arms and upper body during the first public practice of organized team activities last week. When asked about it after practice, the third-year receiver playfully flexed a muscle in response.
“You tell me?” Adams joked. “I definitely made some strides in the weight room as well to get a little bigger. Try to bulk up a little bit and then lean out, make sure my conditioning and my speed does not change throughout getting a little extra muscle.”
Offseason success isn’t new for Adams, who was praised for the strides he’d made last summer. He caught a career-high 50 passes this past season despite the injury, but averaged only 9.7 yards per catch with one touchdown in 13 regular-season games.
He had arguably his best game in Washington, catching four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown before injuring the knee shortly after halftime and sitting out the next week in Arizona.
Adams was uninhibited during last week’s first public OTA practice. He was responsible for the biggest play of the day in making an acrobatic grab on a deep ball from QB Aaron Rodgers that traveled more than 40 yards in the air.
Coach Mike McCarthy and Rodgers both praised Adams for his consistency after practice, adding that plays like that can only help build his confidence leading up to the 2016 season.
“He looks stronger this year than in the past and he’s healthy,” McCarthy said. “We’ve talked about this a bunch throughout the season and I think he definitely demonstrated that on the catch. He can go up and high-point the football. I think you’re seeing a stronger Davante Adams.”
Adams believes the best is yet to come. He credits the Packers for having “the best quarterback in the game” in Rodgers. Now, it’s up to him and the rest of the receivers to provide him with the “best weapons” in the league.
Last year was a trying campaign for the team’s 25th-ranked passing offense, but the return of Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery from season-ending injuries should help the turnaround. The Packers also signed veteran tight end Jared Cook to provide an added dimension in the middle of the field.
Then, there’s a healthy Adams, who showed a lot of promise in his rookie season in the No. 3 role next to Nelson and Randall Cobb. Still only 23, Adams hopes last year’s adversity spurs a third-year turnaround.
Sure, things didn’t exactly play out how he planned last season, but his outlook hasn’t changed. He’s still Davante Adams.
“It’s a new year,” Adams said. “My thing is just control what you can control. That’s my work and what I put in and how I go about this offseason and go about this upcoming season. I hurt my ankle. I hurt my knee. I can’t do anything about that. What I can do is bounce back from it. That’s all I can do.”