Star receiver Corey Davis gushes over Packers' Getsy

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis (84) pulls away from Ohio safety Kylan Nelson during the first half of the Mid-American Conference championship Dec. 2, 2016, in Detroit.

INDIANAPOLIS - There will come a moment on the evening of April 27 when the name Corey Davis lands on television screens across the country. Highlight tapes will roll, pundits will gush and Davis, the star wideout from Western Michigan who set the FBS record for career receiving yards, will cross the stage in Philadelphia as a first-round pick in the National Football League.

Depending on how the draft unfolds, the Green Bay Packers may or may not care about Davis’ selection at that particular moment. Except, of course, for wide receivers coach Luke Getsy.

“He was my freshman wide receiver coach and he’s helped me out a lot,” Davis said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. “He was pretty much the first guy to believe in me besides (Western Michigan head coach) P.J. Fleck and trust my abilities.”

Davis’ arrival at Western Michigan coincided with Getsy’s first and only season as the receivers coach in 2013. The former was a two-star recruit with one scholarship offer out of high school; the latter was a former college quarterback with a fast start in the coaching profession.

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Their bond culminated in Freshman All-America honors for Davis, who caught 67 passes for 941 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games. The techniques he learned then are the ones Getsy still teaches now, and four years later their successes are intertwined.

“He was one of the guys that took a chance on me,” Davis said. “He believed in me. He saw the talent before anyone else did.”

Just as Getsy saw the talent in Davis, who went on to post three straight seasons with 1,400 or more yards, so too did Getsy’s players see the talent in him. At the time he was hired, Getsy was 10 years older than his youngest pupils with a face that would have blended in at a lecture hall. But he brought with him the experience gleaned from two separates stints as an offensive coordinator, the first at West Virginia Wesleyan in 2009 and the second at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from 2011-12.

Timmy Keith and Austin Ford, both receivers at Western Michigan, said they were stunned by Getsy’s maturity, poise and understanding of the game. From his ability to read coverages to his explanations of defensive leverage, every lesson seemed drenched in knowledge.

“Coach Getsy was definitely way beyond on his time, so to speak,” Ford said in a telephone interview. “You knew he had a bright future ahead of him. We were grateful to have him in our wide receiver room. He was definitely somebody that you knew when he gave you any type of lesson or teaching, you knew what was expected of you.

“He was always a great classroom instructor as well. Even in our meeting rooms and things like that, he always took the time out to pinpoint areas of opportunity, strengths and weaknesses, where we had to find different tactics to win against what the defense was giving us.”

Just as he did in Green Bay this season, Getsy captured the attention of the receivers at Western Michigan with his unusual methods involving tennis balls, bricks and catching passes from different angles while lying on the ground.

Keith, who later transferred to Stony Brook, said he was proud of the fact that he learned to juggle during his one season with Getsy. Ford remembered catching bricks on a regular basis between stretching and the official start of practice.

“I remember the tennis balls very clearly,” Ford said. “Not only would we throw tennis balls off the walls to ourselves, but even times where you just sit there and squeeze the tennis ball repeatedly, just to build the strength in your hand. Different things like that.

“You think those things are kind of small and kind of immeasurable at that point for how it’s going to translate, but then you see not only Corey but Davante Adams and Jeff Janis and some of the young guys that have stepped up in that Green Bay wide receiver corps. I just don’t think those things happen by coincidence.”

Added Keith: “I see (the Packers using) a lot of the things that Coach Getsy used to do with us as far as the release game and knowing how to get back to stack, spinning a DB when you’re running a go route — a lot of that stuff I see. It’s nice to know that the stuff he was teaching us had actually worked on the next level. For some of the guys that actually want to go to the next level, it’s just kind of nice to already have that in your toolbox so that you can use it when you get there.”

Which brings us back to Davis, who will be among the first two or three receivers selected in the 2017 draft.

Though Davis arrived at Western Michigan unhyped and unheralded — he was completely unranked by ESPN’s recruiting service — both Ford and Keith said they saw flashes of the ability that eventually oozed from the 6-foot-3, 209-pound star. More importantly, they saw a conscious effort by Getsy to take Davis under his wing as a true freshman whose production was counted on from day one.

“He had Corey in the office during meetings and took extra time out to basically teach him the offense so he was able to play at a faster speed,” Keith said. “(That way) he doesn’t play slow and doesn’t have to be out there thinking.”

“They had a very good interpersonal relationship,” Ford said. “It was not only time in the meeting room, time on and off the field. Just taking time to really work with Corey, even on the minor details just to help him be as successful as possible. … As time started to go on and Corey started to succeed and started to put some great things together on the field, he was always very open and always very communicative to Corey about what to expect next and how people would try to disguise things to him and how he would be perceived as a weapon and what he can even do to add more to his skill set.”

Now that weapon is on the verge of reaching the NFL. And when he does, at least one person in Green Bay will cheer.

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