GREEN BAY – To be the best, you gotta learn from the best.
That was the idea behind Marquez Valdes-Scantling putting aside any vacation plans in order to return to Tampa this offseason to train with Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss in preparation for his second NFL season.
A year ago, as the Packers’ fifth-round pick, Valdes-Scantling did everything to try to beat the rookie curve, going so far as rewriting the offensive playbook multiple times until the concepts were cemented in his memory.
He also spent a week working with Moss. It was an enlightening experience, but unfortunately there was only so much knowledge that could be passed along in that short timeframe.
Looking to make a sizeable leap in Year 2, Valdes-Scantling blocked off an entire month after the Packers’ offseason program wrapped up in June to train with Moss at the Applied Science & Performance Institute, in hopes of improving upon a rookie year in which he averaged more than 15 yards per catch.
“I got a solid four or five days a week with him,” Valdes-Scantling said. “He always said, ‘Don’t try to go out and be me or emulate me. I can teach you some things that I did, but you can be yourself.’”
Valdes-Scantling didn’t fly to Florida to mold himself into a replica of Moss, but rather to learn more about how the four-time All-Pro utilized his 6-foot-4 frame and 4.3 40 to terrorize NFL defenses for more than a decade.
On the surface, Valdes-Scantling has many of the same physical traits Moss possessed as a 6-foot-4, 206-pound receiver who launched up NFL draft boards after posting a 4.37-second time in the 40 at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.
In their sessions, Moss offered Valdes-Scantling suggestions on how to run different routes and defeat certain leverages with your hands coming off the line of scrimmage.
A couple of the short-area quickness drills Valdes-Scantling performed with Moss went viral after the Packers’ second-year receiver posted a video to his Instagram account of him shadowing Moss through a workout.
However, Valdes-Scantling’s biggest takeaway from the summer was Moss’s advice on tackling the mental side of football.
“How to operate as a pro and things of that nature,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I have a lot of the physical traits that you need to be a great wide receiver in this league. But a lot of guys do. It’s all about the mental approach to the game.”
That’s the area in which Valdes-Scantling hopes to take the biggest leap this year after he stepped in as the No. 2 receiver last year following injuries to Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.
In 16 games with 10 starts, Valdes-Scantling showed a partial glimpse of what dimension he can bring to an offense with his 38 catches for 581 yards and two touchdowns.
He made perhaps his biggest play of training camp Wednesday, hauling in a 34-yard touchdown from Aaron Rodgers to end the first-team offense’s two-minute drill.
Yet, Valdes-Scantling wasn’t tossing any bouquets to himself after practice. While Rodgers credited his young receiver for really jumping out this offseason, Valdes-Scantling remains steadfast in his mission to earn his quarterback’s unwavering trust and prove he can be more than just a big-play threat.
“Obviously, I can run well but I want to be an all-around receiver and not just a guy who can stretch the field vertically,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I want to be able to do it all.”
Packers cornerback Tramon Williams believes the young receiver is well on his way, especially after watching the work Valdes-Scantling put in this offseason from afar.
Entering his 13th NFL season, Williams covered Moss on multiple occasions, including during his final NFL season with San Francisco in 2012, and is confident the Hall of Famer’s perspective will benefit Valdes-Scantling in the long run.
“You think about MVS’ body type. You think about Randy Moss’ body type. Similar,” Williams said. “To get a chance to have a work out with a guy of that magnitude, it can do a lot for your confidence. MVS already has a lot of ability. He’s probably got Moss-type speed. He’s shown a lot already and he’s going to be one of the guys who we’re depending on this year.”
With Cobb now in Dallas, the Packers enter this season as young as they’ve been at receiver in years. Still, Valdes-Scantling firmly believes Green Bay has “one of the best groups in the league, from top to bottom,” beginning with Davante Adams.
As Valdes-Scantling looks to make his own name in the NFL, all the sacrifices he made this summer will be worth it if even a few of those one-on-one drills with Moss can help the 24-year-old receiver take a step or two in his own game this season.
“He’s a Hall of Famer but I want to be myself,” Valdes-Scantling said. “You can learn from other players and I learned a lot of things from him, and the things that he did – but I would never say I’m going to try to be like Randy Moss. I’m going to be like MVS, and that’s my goal.”