GREEN BAY – Four games into his first season at Cal in 2014, Trevor Davis had returned only two kickoffs for 20 yards for the Golden Bears.
His next two cracks at it changed everything for the Packers’ eventual fifth-round draft pick.
Playing at Washington State in a game rapidly evolving into a shootout, Davis cranked up the contest’s pace even more in the third quarter. Just two minutes and 59 seconds apart, he brought back a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns.
The returns covered 100 and 98 yards, respectively. The speedy receiver became a blur, times two, pulling off in the length of a boxing round a single-game feat most returners never experience in their entire careers.
So, just how does a relatively unknown transfer from Hawaii burst onto the Pac-12 scene in such grand fashion?
“I would say having extraordinary blocking,” Davis said. “That was perfect blocking. We went back to the film room, and they were 10-for-10 on blocking. Nobody was even really around me. I feel a lot of people could have run those back, and it was a complete tribute to my kickoff return team.”
Davis’ 4.4 speed had something to do with it, too, but looking at the video of those returns, the compliments tossed at his teammates were well-deserved.
When Davis transferred to Cal from Hawaii, he did so wanting to showcase his talents on a bigger stage. The Washington State game showed he could handle it.
Davis found the end zone two other times in that game as well. He got Cal on the board in the first half by taking a bubble screen 27 yards for a touchdown. He also went deep for the game-winning 51-yard TD with just over three minutes left in a wild, 60-59 Cal triumph.
From then on, he was a weapon worth paying attention to in a Jared Goff-led offense that enjoyed a plethora of options.
“Having that game, it was getting those jitters out, getting your legs underneath you, and understanding that you can be at that level,” he said.
Neither Davis nor anyone else ever became Goff’s go-to guy, but Davis knew if he kept after it, enough chances would come his way.
In 2014, he was one of seven Cal receivers to catch at least 20 passes and one of five with at least five TD grabs. Last season, he was one of six with 40 or more receptions, and his 672 yards and 16.8 average per catch both ranked second on the squad.
In addition to his speed, what stood out about Davis to the Packers’ scouts were his tracking of deep, downfield throws and his big, sure hands. Director of football operations Eliot Wolf said on draft day that he counted only two dropped passes on Davis’ 2015 game film.
The constant fight for playing time, and for Goff’s attention, kept Davis focused on each small detail.
“Every single day was a grind for us. Every day we knew you might not be a starter the next week, just because we had so much competition on our team,” he said. “That made each and every one of us a lot better receiver, made me a lot better receiver, because nothing ever was given on our team. Everyone had to battle it out for their position, all the time.”
That’ll count as valuable preparation for his rookie season. Beyond the top two of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, the Packers return four young receivers in 2016 who have all produced and flashed considerably more potential at some point over the last two years – Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis. The competition at that position might be the storyline of training camp.
Until then, Davis said he wants to get to know his new receiving mates and learn how the routes are run in Green Bay’s offense.
Ironically, the first fellow receiver Davis met upon arrival was Montgomery, from Cal’s archrival, Stanford. On his flight to Wisconsin, the first member of the draft class he met was offensive lineman Kyle Murphy, also from Stanford. Then, after his first rookie orientation practice, he was asked by reporters if he remembers playing against another Packers draftee, linebacker Blake Martinez from, yup, Stanford.
“I’m pretty sure I got hit by him a couple of times,” Davis said. “I had a couple of inside routes, so I definitely felt that one.”
Davis can take comfort in the fact that a handful of locker stalls down from him is tight end Richard Rodgers from Cal. Of course, the quarterback on the other side of the locker room is from Cal, too.
The friendly wagers come next fall’s Big Game could get out of hand, and Davis would be a rookie with a lot of smack to talk had his four-TD outburst in ’14 come in that annual late-season showdown.
But Davis doesn’t regret the timing. It was important for him when it happened, and he expects to fit into Green Bay’s mini-locker-room rivalry just fine anyway.
“Actually, Cal and Stanford guys get along pretty well,” he said, “other than on the football field.”