GREEN BAY – No one on the Packers' roster, and perhaps the entire NFL, had a year quite like Allen Lazard.
The former Iowa State standout went from being a late-season add off Jacksonville's practice squad in December 2018 to becoming the No. 2 receiver on a Green Bay squad that won 14 games and advanced all the way to the NFC title game in 2019.
Lazard's Cinderella story wasn't a straight line. Despite a strong preseason, the 6-foot-5 receiver was among the Packers' initial cuts after training camp. However, he was promoted to the active roster only days later and played in all 18 games (including postseason) for Green Bay.
Although he rarely saw snaps on offense until late in Green Bay's 23-22 comeback win over Detroit in Week 6, Lazard still finished second on the team with 477 receiving yards on 479 offensive snaps.
"There haven't been too many people since I've been in the league that I've legitimately seen get better at football, over the course of when he got here at the end of last season up to this point," said Packers receiver Davante Adams of Lazard. "His growth in route-running, the questions that he asks me about releases and different things that weren't even necessarily a part of his game to start, I think he's starting to open that up."
Lazard took a unique path to the NFL despite an accomplished career as a legacy at Iowa State, going undrafted in 2018 and spending nearly all of his rookie season on the Jaguars' practice squad before signing to the Packers' 53 with two weeks left in the season.
Once he had the opportunity to put his abilities on display, Lazard didn't disappoint and was responsible for some of the most memorable catches of the 2019 season for Green Bay.
He caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown, in only 17 snaps to key the Packers' comeback win over the Lions in Week 6. Lazard then enjoyed another big performance against Detroit in the regular-season finale, catching a crucial 28-yard touchdown on third-and-10 that tied game with 5 minutes, 19 seconds remaining.
The Packers went on to win the game, 23-20, on a Mason Crosby 33-yard field goal to give Green Bay the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and the first-round bye that goes with it.
"It's been a crazy ride," Lazard said. "My whole experience in the NFL – being in Jacksonville last year and then coming here to a team that didn't make it to the playoffs for two years in a row and to be able to make it to the NFC Championship, I got to experience what it's like to win, the process that it takes and the work it requires to put in."
Lazard, who only turned 24 in December, partially credits his quick maturation to Adams, who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year after catching 83 passes for 997 yards and five touchdowns in only 12 games.
While the two receivers possess different body types and play styles, Lazard learned a great deal from Adams in their first year together. The veteran imparted onto the young prospect the importance of utilizing proper footwork off the line of scrimmage, and how body positioning translates to setting up defensive backs downfield and maintaining your center of gravity at all times.
Adams' insight was also valuable when it came to developing trust with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who became one of Lazard's biggest advocates throughout the course of the year.
"Huge," said Lazard of Adams' impact on him. "He's really expanded my knowledge of the game. Not only understanding the X's and O's but also I think a lot of stuff Davante does is freelancing and reactions. It's being able to understand how and why he does those things."
A year ago, Lazard began making a series of changes with his diet and preparation to prepare for his first full season in Green Bay and plans to take things to the next level this offseason after returning home to Denver to train.
After establishing both a role and comfort in the offense, Lazard already has a list of areas where he's looking to improve. If 2019 taught Lazard how to be a pro, he's striving to make 2020 the year he solidifies his status as a legitimate receiving threat in Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense.
"It's exciting for me to know how much growth I have in front of me," Lazard said. "I've just kind of fed off the energy of everyone and being able to grow individually and really learning a lot this year. I have so much more knowledge going into Year 3 now, just a lot more comfort and understanding, so I'm really excited."