“Speed, Speed is What We Need”
By: Packers Jeff Janis
Last January, January 16th to be exact, we are betting 90% of Wisconsinites were actually saying a “Hail Mary” when it happened. You know what I am talking about, :05 left against the Cardinals, last chance for the Pack, start praying Packer fans…the rest you know…
So, when we got the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Janis, WR for the Green Bay Packers, to talk about hunting, fishing, and the outdoors, I couldn’t help but remember the last Packer game of the season; the heroic catch, and the Packers corp. of wide receivers. The quote that popped into my head came from Rocky’s manager, Mick, in Rocky II when he told him, “First, we gotta get speed, demon fast speed…Speed is what we need… Greasy, Fast, SPEED!” While I am sure Janis didn’t get his speed by chasing a chicken in an enclosed area, it goes without saying that as we saw in the playoff game, he has the speed that the Packers need. And as we found out, much more.
We knew that Janis is an avid outdoorsman. What we didn’t know is that he is a life-long hunter and fisherman, and is as down to Earth and approachable as any professional athlete ever could be. Janis is a guy anyone could fish with all day long and is a guy that would be welcomed at any deer camp across the state.
We talked with Jeff about a lot of different areas. First off, we talked hunting and fishing.
As far as the outdoors goes, Janis started hunting and fishing at a very young age-about 4 he told us. Growing up in Tawas, MI on the shore of Lake Huron, the outdoors were everywhere and as Janis said, “Growing up in Tawas, fishing was right down the road and the woods were all around us. Plus, my dad, family, and friends were into fishing and hunting. So, of course, I was in.”
Like many of us, the majority of Janis’s best memories of hunting and fishing come from being with his dad. Unfortunately, his dad passed away in 2010 and as Janis told us, “There are moments when I am in the woods that I can feel my dad there. It is an unbelievable and powerful feeling. I really can’t explain it. I just know he is there with me and that is one HUGE reason I love getting out in the woods. And, while I do like hunting and fishing with others, to be honest, sometimes I prefer to be by myself in the woods. It is that special to me.”
Growing up, and over the years, ice fishing has been and for now, is, the chief pursuit of Janis. He told us, “Well, we lived right on Lake Huron. So, in the winter we would go out about 5 miles and jig for walleyes… and there are some BIG walleyes in Lake Huron. So that got me hooked on ice fishing.” We learned (and it makes sense) that the main reason ice fishing is so big for Janis is the simple fact that he has been somewhat busy during other times of the year-namely the fall. And now with the Packers, we all hope he is WAY too busy until February.
As far as deer hunting goes, the Deer Camp Janis grew up with is reminiscent of what many outdoorsmen and women in Wisconsin have experienced. As he told us, “Our deer camp is at a remote spot in the middle of the woods, just an old, rickety, and little bit rusted silver trailer in the woods. You know, a little bit of a musty smell, a crackling wood stove in the corner… it was really just a bunch of older guys snoring, cussing, and telling great old stories… I just loved being there.”
It was here at deer camp that he shot his first deer during the youth hunt. It was right place at the right time and, “That is when I learned about doe scent. We had never baited or used any sort of scent. But I tried it and that buck was just licking the stump up and down-it made all the difference. Since then, I am a believer.”
Deer hunting, like his time so far with the Packers, had been steady but not overly exciting. Once Janis was introduced to bowhunting a little later as a teenager, BOOM, everything changed (very similar to Janis’ stepping up against the Cardinals last January-and the catch). Bowhunting was love at first 20 yard broadside; buck down. Janis’ early realization (just like the Cardinals game) that-I can do this. Janis told us he thought to himself, “Wow. THAT was awesome! This. This is what it is about.” Meaning that for a good number of years hunting was pretty tough. His opportunities were few and far between. He told us, “Ever since that first deer, I have been hooked on bowhunting.” (And like that big game in January, hooked on making great catches for years to come for the Packers.)
Back to bowhunting… It came together this way:
Growing up, Janis hunted with his dad. As Janis puts it, “He was old school. It was, ‘ok, you sit here and wait.’” Well, Jeff told us he waited, and waited, and waited, to the point that he said to himself, “What am I doing out here? “It was really hard as a kid cuz I never saw anything.” He added, “Once I learned how to scout, find deer and move around, it was on. I learned there was more than just one way to hunt.” Janis has continued to hone his skills as a deer hunter to the point that he has found much success over the years.
Janis’ early and continued love for bowhunting led him to many experiences. And, one in Wisconsin he will never forget. That hunt came last fall in Buffalo County during the Packers bye week in October. Janis had the opportunity to go bowhunting with Driven TV and harvest the biggest deer of his life; a 9 point buck that scored 145 (see cover photo). As he told us, “We were filming for the Outdoor Network and we were actually targeting a specific buck. We had seen a number of deer, but no ‘shooters.’ Which is funny because from my experiences, a lot of them would have been shooters. But I will say, it was really cool to pass them up and just take in the moment watching their movements and behavior.”
“So, we were trying three different stands and of course using trail cams to try and figure out where the deer we had targeted was moving. After checking, we found the deer was moving in another area. So, we re-located to a different stand. In the next stand, we had a number of smaller bucks and does come through but not the one we were after.”
“It wasn’t until about dusk that I heard some crunching (crunch, crunch, crunch). I knew something, something was moving… Turned out to be a little fork. But…behind him was a much bigger animal, with horns that cried out ‘Shooter!!’ It was not the deer we had scouted, but was more than good enough and my heart was racing.”
I whispered, “Shooter? And, the camera man says, ‘yeah.’”
“So, it was on-an instant shot of adrenaline. The deer wandered in toward us seemingly oblivious to our presence, which was shocking to me, to within 15 yds. taking a slow sip from the water hole below. Problem…he was now behind and almost directly underneath us. So, I had to adjust my harness and try to stand and turn-great…I just started to stand and turn and, “Squeeeak” …ugh, the dawggone seat!… I thought, busted…but…nope. So, I stood slowly, was able to turn just enough, took aim… (I did have to adjust my aim since he was so close)… then, SNAP! I let it go.”
“I knew it was a good shot and he was hit hard. He bolted, of course. My heart was racing, just pounding. I sat back down and breathed for a while, just breathed. Man, it is so hard to sit and wait, and wait and wait-I reallywanted to go find him. Once we had waited long enough, we got down to look.”
“Now it was dark. We knew which direction he went and we started on the trail. Little blood here, little blood there-put no big spots and no arrow-which was weird. We just couldn’t find or see him…until through the black night, we see… a light?
“Funny thing is that I had a lighted nock on the arrow. So we see it…Noa the question is, ‘Is he alive or dead?’ It has been 4 hours, so we think he is probably dead, but we aren’t sure. We stand there for 45 minutes looking to see, and through the wind, leaves, and tall grass moving it is hard to make out if the lighted nock is moving, ‘Did he move? I think he moved? No, maybe not? I don’t know…’ This went on the whole time… in the dark. Shifting from one foot to the other, not sure. So, finally, we all look at each other and ask, who’s gonna go check? So we all S-L-O-W-L-Y approached him. Quickly we realized he was all done.”
“He had run about 450 yards, dropped and must have died instantly because he was stiff, and I mean stiff. So, then the high fives, hootin’ and hollerin’ started. It was great! Really awesome! And a hunt I will never forget.”
Janis also told us a friend of his, Glenn, has taken him out turkey hunting, (he got his first one last spring), coyote hunting, and bow fishing . All of which Janis started doing in the Badger State. He has yet to get a coyote, but says, “It’s gonna happen.”
Compared to hunting and fishing, Janis’ draft experience was similarly exciting, but also a little nerve wracking. This was probably doubly so because Janis was a DII wide receiver in what he told us was, “A draft loaded with wide receivers.” Hopes of being taken in the 3rd to 5th round were slowly starting to fade as he was getting the dreaded, “Free Agent phone calls from teams like the Buccaneers, Dolphins, Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders.” While Janis, family and friends watched and waited, confidence in getting that call that he was drafted dwindled….
But, the explosion of friends and family from inside his draft day party was near instantaneous with the news he got over his phone (small town-he had to go outside to get better reception):
Janis remarked, that it was a conference call and all he could make out on the phone was, “Are you ready to be a Packer!?”
“Heck YEAH!!” Was all he had to say. Finally, it happened and Jeff Janis couldn’t have gone to a better team.
But…being a Michigan guy, Janis had some hopes of playing for his hometown team, the Detroit Lions where he could similarly beat up on the Bears and Vikings. But of course, he was and is more than happy to be playing for a Super Bowl contender and most popular NFL team. “Being around guys like Aaron, Jordy and Randall, blew me away a little at first, after you know, seeing them on TV every weekend. It was a little surreal, but it’s been great.”
Janis said the team atmosphere is second to none. “There is a lot of camaraderie and the guys have been great to play with.” He continued, “If everyone is uptight and serious all the time it can really be tough to be in the locker room. Yeah, we don’t have that problem. Guys are loose, we have fun, we keep it light as much as possible. It’s a really good vibe.”
Along those lines, we did get him to tell us about the three point knock out game that was once a part of the meeting day routine. He did let us know the best shooter of the group, “Would have to be Devante-and the worst, by far, no question, is Jared (Abbrederis)-He is just terrible. I don’t think he ever played basketball.”
Then, being a huge Packer fan, I of course had to prod Janis to compare the fans in Green Bay to those in other stadiums and namely the Lions’ fans he grew up with. As expected, the response was emphatic and clear, “Man, no comparison. Packer fans are second to none. I mean, we were in Miami, way down there, and there was still a clear, ‘GO-PACK-GO’, cheer going on. Packer fans are crazy, you don’t see anything like it anywhere else. No fans travel or get into it as much as Packer fans.” My predicted response was confirmed, as expected.
The catch against the Cardinals did come up, of course. And, what I heard was not what I expected. What I expected was a ton of excitement, confidence brewing, big smile, and positive energy (and rightly so). That was part of it-don’t get me wrong. I mean, who wouldn’t be pumped about making a catch that could have been the catalyst to getting the Packers into the NFC title game and eventual Super Bowl. But what really rang through was the sense that to Janis, he was just, “doing his job.” There really wasn’t any sense of, “Look at me” or “Yeah, look what I did.” It was really a very candid and humble reflection.
When further asked what kind of impact he thought that game and namely that catch had or would have on him as a player, the response was that he, “…was earning their (Packer teammates) trust.” He said that, “… now he got the sense that guys looked at him as one that could start being relied upon. He wasn’t, ‘just another guy on the team,’ but one that could make a difference and help the team win.”
He said, “If you can make plays and help the team it shows the guys that you belong. You can help the team win. And that is what it is all about. And, what I am here to do.”
So, not that Janis glossed over the game or the catch, but to his credit, reflected with confidence and not arrogance. He sees it (the Cardinals game) not so much as a confidence builder for himself, but more importantly, a confidence builder for his teammates and coaches. And that sentiment is clearly what Janis is all about.
Outside of football, Janis is furthering his engagement with the outdoors by becoming more involved with fundraising efforts aimed at supporting youth fishing and the betterment of Wisconsin’s waterways. Namely, he is involved with the winter ice fishing tournament, Battle on Bago. Battle on Bago; an ice fishing tournament held on Lake Winnebago, utilizes money raised for a variety of fishing and environmental projects. Janis has recently been named to the board in an effort to help raise much needed funds. The vast majority of money raised through this tournament is put towards youth fishing projects and the betterment of fishing on area lakes. Janis’s love for the outdoors and ice fishing will be a great asset to Battle on Bago and the board in their fundraising efforts.
Jeff Janis is a devoted outdoorsman, fantastic asset to the Green Bay Packers, Packer community and an unbelievably down to earth, great guy. We know green and gold fans everywhere will be enjoying his speed and catches for years to come. We look forward to the upcoming season being filled with great catches, touchdowns and tackles from #83.
That, “Demon, greasy fast speed, IS what we need.” And we at Badger Sportsman (as well as Packer fans everwhere), know Jeff Janis is one guy that will bring it this season.