GREEN BAY, Wis. — As Malachi Dupre walked out to the practice field, he was struck by a surreal moment.
The Green Bay Packers rookie wide receiver was about to catch passes from one of his favorite childhood football players.
Some of the Packers veteran wideouts shared some advice to the 21-year-old former LSU standout before being on the other end of an Aaron Rodgers pass.
“They were just joking, ‘If you go with Aaron, he’s going to try and show off his arm a bit,’ ” recalled Dupre after a Packers organized team activities practice on Thursday. “So they were like, ‘Be ready for a hard ball.’ I remember the first pass he threw me came up on me so fast, I just grabbed it out of the air and got back in line. Randall (Cobb) was like, ‘I told you.’ ”
After catching that first fastball from his idol, Dupre has found a connection with the 13th-year quarterback. If Dupre happens to run the wrong route on a play or his pattern needs to be slightly altered, Rodgers will pull him aside, explain what the young player should do and the two will run the play again.
“It’s very exciting getting to catch passes from him, but at the same time he’s a great pro and you realize that right away,” Dupre said. “You understand how he wants things, and you understand why he’s been successful for so long.”
Dupre landed in an ideal scenario when Green Bay drafted him in the seventh round. With the Packers, there is stability at quarterback — Dupre had three quarterbacks during his three years at LSU — and one of the best trio of wide receivers in the game with Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.
The veteran receivers took Dupre under their wing early on in OTAs.
“I just ask them a lot of questions about the offense, about how the quarterbacks like things here. Just how things are done in Green Bay, period,” Dupre said. “I feel like definitely that I’m at a position and at a team where I couldn’t be in a better situation to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. I’m just very excited to get the opportunity and excited to get to play with those guys.”
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Adams has been impressed by Dupre early in camp.
“I’m not going to say it’s a rare trait for rookies, but, as focused as he is, I feel like he’s definitely going to be able to have a great impact,” Adams said. “And I feel like he should have gotten drafted a lot higher based on what I’ve been seeing out there. He’s got great body control.”
“His willingness to learn is really what gets me more than anything,” he said. “A lot of guys come in and you can see the athleticism, which he has a ton of, but I feel like his attention to detail (is special) coming in.”
Dupre dove into the playbook from Day 1 and has become a daily bookworm of the Packers’ playbook. Fellow young Packers receivers have been pleasantly surprised by Dupre’s knowledge and awareness on the field.
“He’s picking up on the material fast,” Packers second-year wide receiver Geronimo Allison said. “He’s coming in hungry. He’s working hard. You can tell he’s in the playbook. Any opportunities that he gets, he’s going out there and play fast and make that adjustment pretty smoothly right now.”
Packers wide receivers coach Luke Getsy hasn’t had a lot of time to work with Dupre, but he’s certainly left a lasting mark. At 6-foot-3, Dupre is a big target in the passing game.
“I really like him. He’s a sharp young man, very bright,” Getsy said. “He played in somewhat of a pro-style system, so that helped. So some terminology and things like that, he’s able to pick up on relatively quick. He’s a good-looking, tall, long guy that can run. And we’re excited about where we can go.”
The Packers were intrigued by Dupre’s three seasons at LSU. He logged 98 catches for 1,609 yards and 14 touchdowns. After hauling in 41 grabs for 593 yards and three scores as a junior, Dupre decided to forgo his senior year to enter the draft and was projected to be a second- or third-round pick.
“I was hearing it from multiple people, multiple different receiving coaches in the NFL that I have relationships with and a lot of other different connections I have tied into the NFL that I was a definite second-day guy,” Dupre said.
But Dupre didn’t get drafted until late on Day 3 with pick No. 247. He was the 32nd and final wide receiver chosen.
When Dupre signed with LSU out of John Curtis in 2014, he was ESPN.com’s No. 1-ranked receiver prospect.
“I felt like everything I could have done after the season as far as combine and pro day and my training, I was only going to help myself with my testing and everything,” said Dupre, who clocked a time of 4.46-second time in the 40-yard dash at LSU’s pro day. “This is one of those things I don’t like to think about now because it’s behind me and I’m part of a great team. … I haven’t really thought of it much since it happened. At the time, it was a very stressful moment. But at the same time, it’s behind us and I’m moving forward.”
When Dupre slipped and nearly went undrafted — he was the seventh to the last pick in the entire draft — he did he second-guess himself for not returning for his senior season.
“I left for a reason,” he said. “And the whole time it wasn’t about where I was projected. I just felt like I was prepared and ready enough to become a professional. Since I’ve taken that step, nothing in me has second-guessed or wished I would have went back. I feel that would be the wrong way to approach it, definitely. Each and every day I just attack it full force and act like I didn’t have an option to go back because I made a decision and ran with it.”
After all the other 31 teams in the NFL passed on him multiple times, Dupre is ready to prove he should have been selected higher.
“I used it as a chip on my shoulder going second round, because I felt like I was a better talent then where I was chosen,” said Adams, the No. 53 pick in the 2014 draft. “Going seventh round when you thought you were going second or third, I can only imagine how he feels. He’s definitely out there with the focus like it means something to him.”
Said Dupre: “I go out there every day and feel like I have something to prove. I feel like a lot of guys in this locker room know that I feel that way and know what I’m worth. I feel like I owe a lot of people something.”