GREEN BAY – It turns out Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb weren't the only Packers receivers James Jones knew when he returned to Green Bay this week.
Without overstating the connection, Jones has served as a mentor of sorts to Davante Adams since the two met while Adams was in high school.
Both California natives, Jones and Adams were unsure of the precise timeline but first crossed paths out west during a summer workout session around six or seven years ago.
Jones was working out with other receivers and his former receivers coach from San Jose State, Keith Williams (now at Nebraska), when the talented prep star Adams joined in. Williams would soon end up coaching receivers at Fresno State and recruited Adams to come there, with perhaps a little help from Jones.
Williams was only at Fresno for Adams' redshirt freshman season, but Adams and Jones stayed in touch over the years, with the elder Jones imparting advice and words of encouragement from time to time.
The irony is that last year Adams was drafted by the Packers to replace Jones less than two months after Jones signed as a free agent with Oakland, and now they're three locker stalls apart at Lambeau Field as two key pieces in Green Bay's efforts to compensate for the season-ending injury to Nelson.
"When a guy leaves a place and you come in, you're not thinking he's going to come back," Adams said. "I'm definitely excited to have him back, though. It's great.
"It's like one of my old buddies that I get to be on the same team with, same wideout room. He brings a lot of things to the table, and he's going to bring a lot of experience we can use with Jordy being out. He's going to be in there and help us out a lot on offense."
Adams has appreciated the connection with Jones, who he said helped keep his spirits up during the coaching turnover at Fresno State and taught him some of the "business side" of the NFL.
Meanwhile, Jones' eyes light up a bit when he talks about Adams, calling him his "little brother." He had a pretty good inkling the Palo Alto prep was well on his way to the NFL back when they first met.
"Oh yeah, you see his high school highlight tape, see what he did at Fresno State, you knew he was coming," Jones said. "You knew he was going to get drafted by somebody and be good. The kid is a special athlete. You knew he had all the tools to be successful."
While keeping up with his old teammates, Jones followed Adams' rookie season from afar last year and said he talked to him a couple of times before or after games. He knew exactly what Adams was adjusting to as the third option in Green Bay's passing offense after an impressive college career.
Back in 2007, Jones left San Jose State as one of the school's all-time leading receivers and came to the Packers as a third-round draft pick, but he was immediately behind Donald Driver and Greg Jennings in the pecking order.
"I would just tell him to go out there and play hungry, make the most of every opportunity, and try to motivate him and keep his mind right, because having Jordy and Randall here you never know when you're going to get a ball," Jones said.
"I was just telling him to stay mentally ready, stay in it, because when your time comes, you still have to be special."
Adams was just that in victories last season over the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots and against the Cowboys in the playoffs, his two 100-yard performances as a rookie.
The expectations were ratcheting up a level for his second season regardless, but Nelson's injury brightened the spotlight. Adams has been saying all along he's ready for it, and it probably won't hurt that the occasional verbal boost, rather than traveling wirelessly a couple thousand miles, is now just a few feet away.
"I'm just proud of him, to be honest with you," Jones said. "I'm happy for him. I hope he continues to ball out."
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