GREEN BAY – The murmurs worked their way up and down the sideline midway through the second day of training camp. Players and fans alike were buzzing about the relatively unknown Packers receiver catching everything thrown his way.
Most didn’t recognize Jake Kumerow at first, partially due to the long brown hair hiding his nameplate.
However, the former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater receiver left a strong impression on everyone in attendance at Nitschke Field on Friday with a strong showing in both the team’s two-minute offense and pass-under-pressure periods.
The 6-foot-4, 209-pound receiver made three impressive catches during the third-team offense’s two-minute series, helping set up an eventual 15-yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer to Robert Tonyan to end the drill.
In the next period, Kumerow slipped between the cornerback and safety on a corner route to make a leaping grab on a pass from Brett Hundley to end his best day in a Packers’ uniform.
“It feels good to get a few catches under your belt going into the rest of camp,” Kumerow said. “The more plays you make, the better. And I’m just trying to do that every day. Hopefully tomorrow I come out and have another good day.”
Football is in the fabric of Kumerow’s family. His father, Eric, was the first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1988. His uncle, John Bosa, also played three seasons for the Dolphins, while cousin, Joey, was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after being the second overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Kumerow has frequent conversations with his father, who is quick to remind his son how much easier he has it today than when Eric spent his camps in the Miami heat every summer. He’s also there to give advice, provide a pep talk and debrief after long practice days.
Kumerow, who started his college career at Illinois, transferred after his freshman year to Whitewater, where he became the school’s second all-time leading receiver. Despite having NCAA Division III roots, Kumerow always felt following in his father’s NFL footsteps was an obtainable goal.
To Kumerow, he’s not a D-III receiver when he steps on an NFL practice field. He’s just another hungry receiver trying to make plays, which is exactly what he did on Friday.
“It builds confidence within him first of all and we all see that,” said receiver Geronimo Allison, a former undrafted free agent out of Illinois. “I always talk with Jake. Any questions Jake has, he comes to me before somebody else because we have that Illinois connection, him growing up in Illinois and played with some of my (teammates). Jake is a guy like me who doesn’t talk much, but goes out there, shows up and makes plays.”
After entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2015, Kumerow spent a majority of his first two NFL seasons on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad before getting a call-up to the active roster near the end of the 2016 season.
He landed in Green Bay last December after a brief stint on New England’s practice squad, signing a futures contract with the Packers after the 2017 season.
Kumerow was watching when the Packers drafted three receivers – J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown – last spring and was neither disappointed nor surprised by the news. Really, he expected it.
The long odds don’t bother Kumerow, a good attribute to possess when battling seven other receivers who were drafted for a place on the roster.
“I didn’t really care, because I knew they were going to,” Kumerow said. “Even if they drafted them or not, I was going to come out here and bust my butt regardless. So I’m going to come out here with the attitude to try and show these coaches that we can do that.”
Kumerow knows one practice doesn’t guarantee a spot on an NFL roster. His performance on Friday is only as good as how he builds on it during Saturday’s padded work.
Still, the opportunity is there for Kumerow and all of the rookie and first-year receivers to make a run at a spot behind Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.
“For the young guys, it’s all mental and I think they’re starting to realize that with the way our schedule is, we’re on the practice field for an hour and a half, two hours, but we’re in meetings for eight or nine hours a day,” Cobb said. “That’s the most important part of this game, it’s 90 percent mental.”