GREEN BAY – The Packers had a new receiver and that meant Michael Crook needed a new jersey to commemorate the occasion.
So shortly after Green Bay selected Davante Adams in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Crook made a trip from his hometown of Beaver Dam to the Packers Pro Shop to pick up the No. 17 jersey of Aaron Rodgers’ newest target.
“He’s my favorite player,” said Crook, 28. “I had high expectations for him coming from Fresno State. Playing with Derek Carr, I knew he could ball out. I’m like, ‘This guy is going to be good.’”
A little more than four years since that purchase, Crook returned to Green Bay this week with his No. 17 jersey while on a fishing trip in the area with his close friend, Nathan Smith.
The two didn’t have any luck on the water, but Crook made it a point to check out Monday’s practice at Nitschke Field. Later that evening, he made a stop at the Packers Pro Shop to pick up a few new hats.
Still donning Adams’ No. 17 jersey from practice, Crook was walking back to his hotel when a car pulled up to him in an otherwise empty Lambeau Field parking lot.
“I was moseying on back to my hotel room and all of a sudden this car was right behind me. I’m like, ‘OK, what’s going on?’” recalled Crook. “Then, the window rolls down and I hear, ‘That’s a nice jersey you got there.’ I’m like, ‘Oh man, that’s Davante Adams.’”
Only Crook didn’t say “Oh man.” In a story that soon went viral on Adams’ Instagram page, a star-struck Crook could be heard exclaiming “Holy (expletive)” before the recording ended.
Adams was on his way home from the stadium when he noticed Crook walking alone in the parking lot and decided to pull a little playful prank on his unsuspecting fan.
The two enjoyed a friendly back-and-forth, with Crook showing Adams a few items he’d picked up. Before Adams left, he asked Crook if he wanted him to sign his jersey. Crook, feeling somewhat foolish, sheepishly admitted he didn’t have a marker.
“He asked if I had a pen. I said, ‘Man, you have to be more prepared than that,’” said Adams with a smile. “I told him to come to practice the next day, and if I saw him out there, I’d sign for him.”
Crook agreed, wished Adams luck and the two went their separate ways. As Crook continued his walk back to the hotel, he started firing off text messages to his group of friends.
A few of them – more social-media savvy than Crook – had already seen the video on Adams’ Instagram page. Crook, not realizing Adams filmed it, had to download and create an Instagram account to watch the video – his only follow remains Adams – and immediately sent a screenshot to Smith.
“His first text was like ‘Dude, crazy. You’re not going to believe this! You’re not going to believe who I met,’” Smith recalled. “He screenshotted the Instagram post. I thought it was just a picture Davante took, rolling up on him. He’s like, ‘No, it’s an actual video.’ That was so cool. I was in awe.”
As prompted, Crook showed up at Tuesday’s practice with the jersey in hand. Prior to this week, he estimates it probably had been four or five years since he last attended a practice.
That lull was way too long for a former bike kid who used to drive up with his mom and her friends to attend weekend practices. Donald Driver drove with Crook once, a personal highlight, but his most loyal rider was former seventh-round pick Carl Ford, who signed a few wristbands in gratitude.
From the stands, Crook made eye contact with Adams during an early fundamental period. He tried to get him to sign the jersey on the spot, but the Pro Bowl receiver was a little busy.
Adams made a beeline for Crook once practice ended, though. He signed his jersey – and a few more items for younger fans – before biking back to Lambeau Field.
“He saw me, came right over, and said ‘I’m like a man of my word right?’ I’m like, ‘Yes you are,’” said Crook. “He’s a great guy. I always had a positive view of him. He seemed like a community guy and this just proves it. It made my day.”
Crook left Adams with one last well-wish before the two went their separate ways, hoping for a second Pro Bowl selection for Adams and his first Super Bowl berth.
In response, Adams told Crook he likewise hopes Super Bowl LIII will prevent him from playing in this year’s Pro Bowl.
Small moments like these hold special meaning for Adams, especially given Crook’s dedication. Having bought the jersey Adams’ rookie year, Crook stuck with No. 17 during an injury-riddled 2015 season and continued to wear it proudly after Adams’ breakout season in 2016.
“When you see guys, especially the path I’ve had throughout my career, to see people like that who have been fans in the beginning and stay fans through all the ups and downs, obviously that means a lot to me,” Adams said. “Those are the extra special fans.”
Crook never could have imagined such a crazy scenario playing out during this trip, but he was happy to be in the right place and the right time to meet the player he’s been backing since Day 1.
There is one small problem, though. Crook suddenly needs a new jersey.
“I have to get another one now,” Crook laughed. “I can’t wear this one.”