Green Bay Packers wide receiver and special-teams ace Jeff Janis would rather have been preparing for the NFL’s playoffs this week, but he and his wife, Alyssa, made plans to attend the ATA Trade Show soon after his team fell out of contention.
Janis, 26, has played four seasons for Green Bay after the Packers made him the 21st selection in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. For those who like specifics, Janis tells you he was the 236th of 256 picks in that draft.
Packer fans recognize Janis as the team’s No. 1 “gunner” on punt coverage. He consistently defeats double-team blocks to race downfield and stop returners before they get started. Janis also made two miraculous receptions on last-minute 86-yard touchdown drive in Green Bay’s January 2016 divisional playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals. The first was a 60-yard catch on a fourth-and-20 play from the Green Bay 4-yard line with 55 seconds left in regulation, and the other was a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown catch with no time remaining to tie the game. The Cardinals, however, won in overtime.
Janis is also known in the community and Green Bay’s locker room as bowhunting’s No. 1 ambassador. In fact, he introduced the team’s backup quarterback, Brett Hundley, to archery and bowhunting, and helped him get his first deer last fall.
He said deer hunting piques his teammates’ interest when they learn he’s a serious hunter. Unfortunately, they usually lose interest when learning it requires pre-dawn wakeups and long, quiet waits in cold woods.
In contrast, Janis has always loved hunting since his dad took him waterfowling at age 8 when he was “just big enough to get in the way” in duck blinds. His dad also introduced him to gun-deer hunting about five years later. They hunted from the family’s old Airstream trailer they’d haul from their home in Tawas City, Michigan, to the Huron National Forest. He shot his first buck there, an 8-pointer, with a Marlin .30-30 at age 13.
Janis started bowhunting a year later with a high-school friend, and instantly fell in love with bows, arrows and deer hunting. He used a Darton youth bow to arrow his first deer, a spike buck, while bowhunting pubic land at age 16.
Janis had few chances to hunt while playing college football at Michigan’s Saginaw Valley State, a Division 2 program. He also had to deal with losing his father to cancer at age 52 while in college, but he was a star wide receiver on the field. When the Packers called in late April 2014, he became the school’s first wide receiver to be drafted by the NFL.
Upon arriving in “Titletown,” Janis sent out a tweet asking Packer fans if anyone would let him bowhunt their land – the closer to Green Bay the better. He received many offers but settled on two properties within 20-minute drives from home. He hunts every Tuesday, the team’s day off, as well as the late afternoons on Monday, Thursday and Friday.
For home games, he sneaks in bowhunts on Saturday and even Sunday mornings. “Things can get tight if we have a noon kickoff, but I have a place I can drop off a deer quickly to get it processed,” he said.
Janis also bowhunts at Bluff Country Outfitters in Wisconsin’s Buffalo County during the team’s bye week, and arrowed a 145-inch buck while hunting with Holly Miller, a close friend of Pat and Nicole Reeve, hosts of “Driven with Pat & Nicole” on the Outdoor Channel. His bowhunt, titled “Go Pack Go” was featured in Episode 1117 of the show.
Janis’ passion for archery rivals his love for bowhunting. He chuckles and glances sheepishly at Alyssa when asked which bow he shoots. “I’m always buying bows,” he said. “I’m a big fan of bows. I love shooting. I got a bow press and learned how to set them up. I tie in peeps, I tune them … everything. I enjoy making each bow as accurate as possible.”
Janis will become an NFL free agent in March. He and Alyssa hope to remain in Green Bay with their 8-month-old son, but he doesn’t know where they’ll end up. Janis just shrugs, but laughs when considering how far he’d have to drive to hunt deer if he ends up in Miami or Los Angeles.
“The NFL is a business, so I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “But I’ve loved playing in Green Bay. You couldn’t ask for a better place in the NFL to bowhunt.”