GREEN BAY – Alvis Whitted has always wanted to get back.
Get back to the NFL, and get back to a Super Bowl.
The Packers’ new wide receivers coach took less than 30 seconds into a conversation with packers.com to bring up a major personal motivation for him – another shot at a title, after his lone opportunity as a player for the 2002 Oakland Raiders was lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Four years later, Whitted’s nine-year career in the NFL – not too shabby for a seventh-round pick from North Carolina State who played in the shadow of the Wolfpack’s Torry Holt – came to an end. He then spent nine years coaching in the college ranks, the last seven building an impressive resume at Colorado State, where he coached three All-American receivers.
But the lure of the NFL has always been there for the former role player (74 catches, 1,060 yards and six TDs for the Jaguars and Raiders) and special-teamer, who calls it both “humbling” and “surreal” to return to the NFL roughly a decade after he left it.
“This has always been a dream of mine to get back here, at this level, and get back to try to win a championship,” Whitted said. “I had an opportunity to play in one, came up short, and we think we have everything we need here to get back in that position, and that’s exciting.
“It’s always been a motivating factor for me because me as a player, I felt like I always had something to prove. I took a very unconventional way to get to the National Football League, so for me … there was always a chip on my shoulder, and that’s kind of what I project for my players. I want them to be the same way.”
He’ll find plenty of kindred spirits in Green Bay’s wide receiver room. Davante Adams has taken the league by storm since a disappointing, injury-plagued second season in 2015 left many observers wondering whether he had what it takes. Fellow veteran Randall Cobb, who is a pending free agent, is constantly questioned about whether he’ll ever repeat his career year of 2014.
Meanwhile, the three youngest members of the Packers’ receiving corps – J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown – all had to wait until the third day of the draft last year to get selected. Jake Kumerow bounced around on practice squads for multiple years before finally getting his shot last season, and Geronimo Allison is a former undrafted find who will be plenty motivated in 2019 after injuries wrecked what looked like a promising 2018.
Despite their disparate backgrounds, Whitted’s message to them all will be the same, which was the approach he took at Colorado State whether he was coaching an All-American or a walk-on.
“Three simple words, be a pro,” he said. “For us, as coaches, being consistent and being predictable, that breeds inherent stability for your players to see. I always want to be consistent in everything I do, because they’re depending on us to be successful. Being that I have played pro football and have understood that, they know I have their best interests at heart. I want what’s best for them.”
Whitted couldn’t be more fired up about his new opportunity. Somewhat serendipitously, he met Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur just a year ago, when LaFleur, as the new offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, came out to Colorado State for a pre-draft workout with receiver Michael Gallup, the second of Whitted’s three All-Americans.
They talked some football in his office and it turned out they had a mutual friend in the coaching business who reconnected them when LaFleur was looking for a receivers coach for the Packers.
The next thing Whitted knew, he was on the phone introducing himself to his two-time Pro Bowler, Adams, which only excited him more.
“I tell you, that man is dialed in. He is dialed in and he loves football, and he wants to win,” Whitted said. “The other impressive thing about him is he wants to find ways to get better, and that’s the thing that will always trickle down to the younger guys as well. He’s a natural leader.”
As for those younger guys, Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown both came on strong the second half of the season when injuries limited Cobb and Allison, and the rookies made their share of explosive plays for Aaron Rodgers. Kumerow was reactivated from injured reserve late in the year and caught a long TD in an eventual overtime victory over the Jets.
“Those guys were starting to earn Aaron’s trust at the midpoint and later in the season,” Whitted said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to develop that rapport that Aaron can trust all those guys, and they can all step in and be a weapon for him and for this football team.”
Tough, dependable and smart. Those are the three characteristics Whitted looks to instill in all his players.
They’re traits he possesses, too. He needed them to last nine years as a seventh-round pick, and to do the work required to get back in the NFL as a coach. Now, it’s about that other piece of unfinished business.
“I’m a faithful guy and I do believe that things work for a reason, and I’m here for a reason, and I hope that is to help this team win,” he said. “I’m in the best situation I could possibly be in.”