The Green Bay Packers headed down to New Orleans knowing that superstar wide receiver Davante Adams wouldn’t suit up on Sunday night. Fans were hopeful that they’d see Adams, but ultimately, he was held out for precautionary reasons.
Without Adams, who would quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur turn to in order to fill the void? As it turns out, an assortment of tight-ends and an undrafted third-year man out of Iowa State – Allen Lazard.
With Adams gone and Marquez Valdes-Scantling getting shaded coverage looks (the Davante treatment) the Saints were almost daring Lazard to beat them.
And he did.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound pass catcher caught six balls for 146 yards and a touchdown – including two deep balls that changed the course of the game. The narrative that Aaron Rodgers has never thrown to first-round picks is tired and unnecessary. Lazard is a prime example.
But how did he go from undrafted free agent that barely stuck on the Jaguars practice squad, to No. 2 wide receiver and one of Rodgers’ most trusted weapons? There are plenty of reasons why.
This fantastic story should help.
I’m just here to tell you that Lazard has been massively underrated throughout his career and is just now getting the recognition he deserves. As an Iowa native that grew up close to the Des Moines area, I’ve followed Allen through the highs and lows. Here’s how he’s gotten to where he is today, with some of my own input.
Lazard went to high school in Urbandale, where he set records and stood out as the state of Iowa’s top player according to Rivals, and the nation’s top receivers. He was a four-star recruit according to 247sports and had offers from plenty of top Division I schools, including Notre Dame, Stanford and Oregon.
Lazard still holds school career record in receptions (105), receiving yards (2,349), touchdowns (34) and interceptions (14). On top of that, Lazard was a star basketball player for the Jayhawks, playing under legendary head coach Brad Bjorkgren. The kid could do it all.
That’s why Iowa State fans were thrilled when he chose to stay in-state and play for the Cyclones.
From the day he stepped foot on campus, Allen was the big fish in a small pond. Although Iowa State is known on most college football enthusiasts’ radar, it wasn’t always that way. In his freshman and sophomore year, the team’s combined record was 5-19. He started almost every game for the Cyclones in the first two years, but his numbers weren’t popping out yet.
That all changed in his junior year. His season in 2016 is one of the greatest single seasons ever for an Iowa State receiver. He went over 1,000 yards receiving and had seven touchdowns.
That season put him on the NFL draft watch. And his decision was the biggest news of the offseason for Iowa State. Would he choose to enter the draft, where he was projected to be drafted as a mid-to-late round pick? Or stay at school and help turn the program around with new head coach Matt Campbell?
His choice to stay at ISU for his senior season maybe defines why so many Packers and Cyclones fans love him. The kid has got heart, passion, and a desire to push through the tough stuff. Also, this is my favorite Lazard catch do date and it’s from that season.
Although his choice to stick it out with the Cyclones went well for the program and turned him into an Iowa State legend – ISU went from 3-9 in 2016 to 8-5 with a bowl victory in 2017 – for whatever reason, it didn’t help his draft status.
256 players were drafted in the 2018 NFL draft and none of the names called were Allen Lazard’s. Which was absolutely shocking to Iowa State fans and anyone who watched the Cyclones. His numbers really didn’t falter in his 2017 season. In fact, he caught double digit touchdowns for the first time in his career.
Either way, Lazard landed on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad for the 2018 season. He spent most of the season there, until the Packers picked him up in December. A no-name in the league, Lazard actually caught a pass in the last game of the year against the Lions. Even in my pit of misery watching the dismal 2018 Packers play football, I was so excited to see Lazard get his first career catch.
Nobody expected him to make the final roster in 2019 coming out of training camp. But Lazard worked hard on his body to become slimmer and faster. Initially landing on the practice squad, he was called up on Sept. 4 for the season opener against the Bears.
The rest is history.
Now the pass-catcher has worked his way into being a top option for Aaron Rodgers and this Packers offense. He’s also proven very capable as a run-blocker, receiving compliments from his head coach and teammates.
After a long journey, it’s so good to see him earn some recognition and have a breakout game in primetime. I am an Allen Lazard guy, and you should be too.
Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.