Green Bay Packers Hail Mary makes Tawas native Jeff Janis instant star
From lee Thompson, MLive.com
Two catches all season did nothing for the reputation of Jeff Janis.
Two catches on the final drive of regulation in the NFC playoff game between his Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals made him a star.
The former Tawas Area and Saginaw Valley State University standout made two of the most improbable receptions of the season, taking the Packers from one goal line to the other in spectacular fashion.
His 60-yard reception on fourth-and-20 gave the Packers a glimmer of hope — and things got better from there. On the final play of regulation, Janis soared in the end zone to haul down a 41-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary toss from Aaron Rodgers, drawing the Packers into a 20-20 tie.
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Arizona would spoil the celebration, scoring a touchdown on a 5-yard shovel pass from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald on the first possession of overtime for the 26-20 victory and trip to the NFC championship game.
Janis, a two-time Division II all-American who shattered virtually every school and conference record while playing for Saginaw Valley State University in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, finished the game with seven receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
And the backup wide receiver whose primary role was as a kick returner this season for the Packers was suddenly a sensation.
Janis only became part of the offensive gameplan after Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb departed with a chest injury in the first quarter.
He responded by catching his first NFL touchdown, an 8-yard grab that gave Green Bay a 13-7 lead with 10:25 left in the third quarter.
But fireworks were to follow once the Packers reached the desperation stage. Facing a fourth-and-20 from their own 5 and trailing 20-13, the Packers got new life when Rodgers scrambled to his left in the end zone and lofted a jump ball that Janis pulled down for a 60-yard gain.
After a penalty and an unsuccessful pass, Green Bay was down to its final play with 5 seconds on the clock. As he did in a game-winning play against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers sent a Hail Mary pass high into the air.
Janis outleaped the Cardinals defense and tumbled to the ground with the ball. The ball momentarily came loose, but Janis secured it as bedlam ensued around him.
With an hour, Twitter had nearly 30,000 mentions of the Tawas City native.
Janis was a versatile performer at smalltown Tawas Area High School in northeast Michigan who flew under the radar of college recruiters. He landed at SVSU and erupted as a junior, when the 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver led the nation with 1,635 receiving yards. He finished his college career with 4,305 yards and 46 touchdowns receiving.
He was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by the Packers and earned a spot as the primary kick returner this season. But he had just two catches for 95 yards as a wide receiver this season.
He changed all that Saturday, catching two passes for 101 yards on the final drive alone, including the Hail Mary that is sure to endear him to Packers fans across the globe.