Jeff Janis' speed could vault him to roster spot

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Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, August 18, 2014

St. Louis—Exactly four years ago, his dad died of liver cancer. On the eve of the Green Bay Packers’ exhibition game against St. Louis, this is what receiver Jeff Janis thought of most.

He wasn’t drowning himself in Xs and Os. He posted a heartfelt message with a photo of himself with his dad on Twitter and Instagram.

From the team hotel—on the eve of his biggest job interview ever—Janis’ thoughts were first with Dad.

“I was thinking about how happy he’d be, just me being in this position,” Janis said. “So as soon as I stepped out on that field tonight (Saturday), I had a big smile on my face—just soaking up the moment—because I can’t believe it’s even happening.

“I know that he’s happy.”

Yes, he probably is.

With one torrid 34-yard catch and run for a touchdown, Janis stated his case for a roster spot in the Green Bay Packers’ 21-7 win over the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.

Since overcoming a bout of shingles in training camp, the seventh-round pick has made an eye-popping play per day—and that continued Saturday. The wheels Janis used to torch Division II defenses at Saginaw Valley State are transferring.

Sitting inside his locker across from Janis, second-round pick Davante Adams shakes his head.

He saw Janis turn the corner on that touchdown. And, no, he wasn’t surprised a bit.

This is the guy everyone in Green Bay calls “V12”—as in the V12 engine you’d find inside a Lamborghini.

“They don’t ever know,” Adams said. “You see in practice, as soon as he got here, any time he catches that little shallow, that little drag route, he catches it and people take bad angles because they don’t know how that V12 is going to kick in. That dude is fast.”

On third and 1 from the Rams 34, Janis ran a short in—his favorite route at Saginaw Valley State—and caught the ball at the 32-yard line. As Janis turned toward the sideline, both Christian Bryant and Greg Reid seemed to have ideal angles. Janis saw Bryant and said he had to “take it wide, turn on my speed.”

Janis turned vertical, scored and, as he said, “kind of blacked out” from there.

At that moment, he did think about his father. Janis has a tattoo on his arm to remember Dad by—one with the words “Live Strong” and “Christopher.”

If Janis does latch on, this speed is the No. 1 reason why. Position coach Edgar Bennett started the “V12” nickname, Janis started calling himself that and—after Saturday—it’ll probably stick.

“You’ve got the V6, the Honda Accord,” Adams said. “You’ve got the V8, Porsche. And you’ve got the V12, ‘Lambo.’ That’s him.”

Janis might have been unsure if his speed—he has been clocked in the 4.3s—would transfer from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to the NFL. In college, he had a 5-yard cushion on everyone.

Veteran receiver Jordy Nelson knows this is the one thing that absolutely applies at all levels.

“Speed always translates,” Nelson said. “That’s one thing you can carry over—there’s no doubt about it. But he probably won’t be able to just win off his speed like he did in college. He’s going to have to work on technique and routes and stuff. But speed will always help him.”

As for Janis’ ceiling, Nelson adds he has “no idea.” Janis has a lot of work ahead. His first 1 weeks of camp were wiped out by the shingles virus.

This single play—and the fact he cleanly fielded three punts—does feed self-confidence. Many D-II studs flame out in this setting—what they did in college doesn’t work in the pros. Their V12s shut down. Janis, however, loved shallow routes in college and raced away from everyone in the preseason.

With the stretch run ahead for all Green Bay wide receivers, Janis hopes NFL cornerbacks don’t catch this highlight.

“I think right now, they’re not going to realize how fast I am,” Janis said. “So I think that’s going to work out in my favor. So hopefully, it takes a little while for them to realize that.”

And Janis repeats that he had a “guardian angel” watching over him in St. Louis.

Adams thinks Janis drives a Ford. One day, maybe that’ll change.

“I don’t think he has the V12 car just yet,” Adams said. “But if he keeps running like that, he will.”

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