Packers’ draft pick ready for yet another adjustmentMike Spofford
GREEN BAY - Dontayvion Wicks might've had to wait until the third day of the NFL Draft for the Packers to select him in the fifth round, but that was nothing compared to his wait 4½ years earlier.
A month before the mid-December signing day of his senior year, the star receiver and quarterback from Plaquemine High School in Louisiana still didn't have an offer from a Power 5 conference program. He had in-state interest from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette but getting away from home to play big-time college football was always the goal.
Then suddenly he got a message on Twitter from Jordan Arcement, then a scout/recruiter for the University of Virginia and a fellow Louisiana native, expressing interest in his game film. Next thing Wicks knew, Cavaliers receivers coach Marques Hagans was attending one of his basketball games.
Within a week, Wicks was on an official visit to Virginia. By the time he left, he had a scholarship offer, and shortly thereafter the Cavaliers had his commitment.
In a matter of days, Wicks went from probably sticking around the Bayou to heading for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and his next chapter was underway.
"It happened fast," Wicks said as perhaps the biggest understatement of the entire recent Packers rookie minicamp. "Getting the ACC was very exciting. A blessing."
The under-the-radar recruit still had plenty to prove, though. He caught just three passes for 61 yards as a freshman in 2019 - though one was a 44-yard TD - and then missed all of the Covid-shortened 2020 season due to a foot injury.
Thrust into his first starting role in 2021, Wicks delivered. He caught 57 passes for 1,203 yards and nine TDs, breaking former Detroit Lions star Herman Moore's single-season school record for receiving yards. He had six 100-yard games, tying the school mark for one year and earning All-ACC honors.
Next came another bump in the road, though, as a new coaching staff took over at Virginia in 2022. Wicks struggled to adjust to the new offensive system and shaky QB play, battled a bout of drops as well as some injuries, and the tail end of the Cavaliers' season was ultimately canceled due to a tragic shooting that took the lives of three football players.
The drop-off in production last season (30 catches, 430 yards, two TDs) undoubtedly hurt his draft stock, but Wicks has moved on from setbacks before.
So, as he begins his NFL journey in a young Green Bay receivers room that features a wide open depth chart beyond the top two names, it feels like an appropriate environment for another mini-reset the 6-1, 206-pound pass catcher will look to utilize to the fullest.
"Just like coming out of high school, once you get there, it doesn't matter," Wicks said. "You're fighting for your position, you're fighting for your spot, so anybody can earn a spot. It's just about what you're doing, what you do with your opportunities."
Unlike the interest from Virginia that came seemingly out of the blue, Wicks had a feeling the Packers might draft him. He visited Green Bay during the pre-draft process and came away in good spirits about his conversations with Head Coach Matt LaFleur and receivers coach/passing game coordinator Jason Vrable.
Impressed with Wicks' smarts when he was drawing Virginia's routes and plays, Vrable had good vibes from the visit as well.
"You can really feel the character and the passion of a person when they're here, and his love for the game," Vrable said. "He just knew the system inside and out, could communicate.
"He carries himself with a very professional demeanor. I think he's a true pro right away. I haven't had to talk to him about how to study or go about it because he already had that mentality about him. When he left, I think everybody in our building was like, 'Yep, I think that guy fits the Green Bay way of what we want.'"
To use Wicks' words, "not knowing what's next" is nerve-racking and exciting at the same time, and he has two fellow rookie draft picks - third-rounder Jayden Reed from Michigan State and seventh-rounder Grant DuBose from Charlotte - in the same boat.
They'll be competing with 2021 seventh-round pick Samori Toure, late-season signee Bo Melton, practice-squad holdover Jeff Cotton, and undrafted rookies Duece Watts from Tulane and Malik Heath from Mississippi for the No. 3 spot and beyond, with second-year pros Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs leading what is almost certainly the youngest receiving corps in the NFL.
"As far as learning from those guys, I know they want to help," Wicks said. "Christian and Romeo, they all hit us up after we got drafted, welcoming us into the Green Bay Packers and into the locker room."
The shortened version of Wicks' first name, Tay, might be strange for the coaches and other veteran players to hear in the locker room again. But none of the 10 receivers on the Packers' roster played with Davante Adams, so there's no reason for Wicks to feel self-conscious about the moniker.
Nobody's making any comparisons. It's just another sign the future is the focus.
"I think being young, we can all relate to each other," Wicks said of his receiving mates. "Everybody wants to be in a group that wants to work, that wants to be the best."