GREEN BAY – Jake Kumerow’s path has been unconventional to say the least.
In an NFL career that’s featured more twists and turns than a George R.R. Martin novel, the Packers’ first-year receiver has been cut four times, placed on injured reserve twice and spent a majority of the past four seasons on practice squads.
All before ever appearing in an actual NFL regular-season game.
In what very well could have amounted to a make-or-break 2018, Kumerow defied the odds at a loaded position earlier this summer to state his case to be on Green Bay’s 53-man roster, and following a two-month stint on injured reserve, the 26-year-old receiver is finally getting his shot.
So it was only fitting Kumerow’s wild-and-crazy season received its capstone against the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon when the former undrafted free agent not only made his first career NFL start, but also caught his first regular-season touchdown off a 49-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers, who has been a strong advocate for Kumerow dating back to the offseason program, sees the poetry in the journeyman receiver’s story.
“What a rocky, crazy road for him,” Rodgers said. “To come in, very little expectations, then he has a hell of a preseason, he scores the long touchdown, he dives in the end zone, hurts his shoulder and he goes on (injured reserve). There was a time when I think a lot of us thought he might not come off.
“When he’s out there, he makes plays. I just think he’s such a good guy, good teammate. He practices the right way. He’s been around. He’s been cut by a number of teams. Just his story is so incredible. It was fun to be able to get him his first touchdown.”
The score came at a crucial time for the Packers, who were trailing 14-0 when Kumerow sliced between Jets defenders Trumaine Johnson and Brandon Copeland at the line of scrimmage en route to catching a wide-open pass and turning upfield.
Kumerow likely would have been on the Packers’ Week 1 roster had it not been for a shoulder injury he sustained diving into the end zone on an 82-yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Green Bay’s second preseason game.
Instead, he had to bide his time and hope the Packers would use one of their two designations to return a player from IR. Since his activation earlier this month, Kumerow has played a handful of offensive snaps here and there.
However, the 6-foot-4, 209-pound receiver hadn’t seen a sizeable workload until Sunday against the Jets (57 offensive snaps). With Randall Cobb out with a concussion and Equanimeous St. Brown in the locker room, Kumerow was on the field for nearly every play of the Packers’ comeback.
“It meant a lot. It was a lot of fun being out there, playing with the guys,” Kumerow said. “I’m glad to be out there, helping the Green Bay Packers win the game.”
While he’s still relatively new to the offense, Kumerow has developed a reputation for always being where he needs to be on the field, a trait that’s endeared him to Rodgers and the offense.
“He’s kind of a fluid, smooth, crisp route-runner,” interim head coach Joe Philbin said. “I think he can develop a connection with the quarterbacks, whoever he plays with. I think he’s kind of quarterback-friendly because he’s usually at the spot he’s supposed to be in the progression. He runs well. He plays fast.”
Kumerow was one of five receivers to record at least 60 yards against the Jets, the first time in franchise history that’s ever occurred in a game. Entering Sunday’s finale against Detroit, Kumerow will have one more opportunity to finish his first official NFL season on a high note.
“Jake is a big sleeper,” receiver Davante Adams said. “The ways we could potentially use him if he had a little more experience, he’s dangerous. He’s an excellent wide receiver. He’s a great teammate. He learns and he’s eager to learn, which makes it really easy for me being a vet in that room.”