There are few, if any NFL players, Giants included, who have been busier since their season ended than Green Bay Packers All-Pro wide receiver Greg Jennings. The Kalamazoo, Michigan native hit the ground running shortly after Green Bay’s disappointing Divisional Playoff loss to the New York Giants, and has traversed the country, from Hawaii to Indianapolis to Washington, DC in the past three weeks. While rest assured Jennings would have preferred the season ended with a victory tour for the Packers like last season did, he found ways to make his extended offseason productive and impactful not just for himself, but for others.
Jennings stops in recent weeks included the Pro Bowl (which he was selected for for the second time in four years), and a long series of promotional and media appearances (including hosting the Red Carpet at the Maxim Party for Coke Zero) during Super Bowl week, followed by a three day trip to Washington, DC to meet with media, politicians and others to talk about his foundation work and his upcoming trip to Africa with USAID and the Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation. We caught up with Jennings to talk Packers, NFL and other things.
Q: What was it like being in Indianapolis and not playing in the Super Bowl?
JENNINGS: It was very surreal and I stayed busy with other things and meeting people to talk about our foundation and other projects, but it certainly wasn’t easy. I have an interest in acting and the media, so hosting the Maxim Party for CokeZero and going to ESPN and doing all the other events were fun, but I would have much rather been playing. I didn’t watch the game at all on Sunday. We know as a group we failed to achieve our goal, and now as a group and as individuals we have to improve and do everything we can so we are back next year. It was a very disappointing end to the season.
Q: Looking back on the season, the Packers lose only one game, Aaron Rodgers wins MVP, a slew of guys go to the Pro Bowl, any positives that are taken away?
JENNINGS: Sure there were lots of accomplishments and lots of good and our fans enjoyed the run, but at the end of the day it is a bit hollow. We know that we didn’t achieve our ultimate goal and that changes will be made regardless of our record. That’s the way life in the NFL is. We knew leaving the lockerroom after we lost to the Giants that this group as a whole would not be back again together because we didn’t win, and that’s to be expected. It was an exciting year but ultimately it is about winning the title, and I congratulate the Giants for that.
Q: With regard to Rodgers, you caught some of the most historic passes from both Aaron and Brett Favre, do you still think Aaron is better?
JENNINGS: For me, having played with Aaron in his prime and Brett toward the end of his run, yes, I think Aaron is still the better of the two that I have played with. He has all the tools and he was deserving of the MVP. I know we are looking forward to next year.
Q: And what about Matt Flynn?
JENNINGS: I wasn’t surprised by what he did against the Lions because like Aaron did when he was waiting for his shot, Matt prepares every week like he is going to get the call. He is very talented and is going to be a great quarterback in the NFL in my opinion. He is a solid teammate and a great person.
Q: You made this trip to Washington, which is a little out of character for a player so close to the end of the season. What was it about?
JENNINGS: The Greg Jennings off the field has a lot of work to do in giving back to the community through the foundation my wife Nicole and I started in Kalamazoo, The Greg Jennings Foundation. It is all about empowering youth and giving young people the tools to succeed and we have a need to find ways that we can expand what we are doing and let others know. So we planned this trip to Washington, met with our Congressman Fred Upton and with Senator John Thune, who is a huge Packers fan by the way, and then attended a special event with USAID with Commissioner Tagliabue and Dhani Jones and others to talk about athletes giving back and this upcoming trip to Africa other like-minded athletes. I need to use my time effectively in the offseason, and the people we met hopefully will help us extend the message and help us help others. We have a duty to use our fame and our time in front of the cameras not just to do good on the field, but to improve the lives of others off the field.
Q: What was it like on Capitol Hill, any political aspirations?
JENNINGS: No way, lol. It was very impressive that so many people took the time to talk to us. First on Wednesday we saw the film “Act of Valor” with the Navy SEALS Foundation, and that was very humbling, to realize the sacrifice those real heroes make. Then to have politicians from both houses of Congress, men who have done so much in service to our country, spend time to see how they can help further our mission was really important to us. It was also interesting to see how many people have bought Packers stock! We must have had ten or 20 people come up to us with ther certificates as we were walking the halls. The Cheeseheads were everywhere. We even went to POLITICO and were greeted by other Packers fans. Getting some time with Commissioner Tagliabue to hear his thoughts on how athletics can change the world was also amazing. He has a great balance of athletics and social empowerment and I think it is a view we can all learn from and emulate.
Q: When will you be going to Africa?
JENNINGS: We are going the end of March with USAID and the Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation, and part of the trip will be outfitting kids and adults with hearing aids, to give them the gift of hearing for the first time. I have seen how that little gift can immediately change lives, and it will be very special for both Nicole and I to go along, make our first visit to Africa, and again expand the reach that we can have to change the lives of others.
Q: You also talked about acting, anything on the horizon?
JENNINGS: I will be participating in the NFL’s boot camp event in Los Angeles to show guys the in’s and out’s of the entertainment business, and hope to make a similar trip to New York to learn about Broadway and other areas of entertainment as well. One of my heroes has always been Magic Johnson, since we come from similar backgrounds in Michigan, and I think what he has done with his career and his life is something that I would like to learn more about, balancing business and entertainment and philanthropy. End of the day it is all about how we can make an impact and use our time the best, so that’s my focus right now…helping the Packers improve, learning about ways I can make a difference in the lives of others and being a positive force for change in any way I can.
Q: That’s quite a schedule, with football tied in as well.
JENNINGS: Of course football is the priority, and all of our other work will revolve around getting ready in the offseason for next year. We as an organization have a lot of unfinished business to attend to, and without the Packers and football, I could not do what I want to do in other areas. It all ties together and there is time to grow in both areas, so it’s all very balanced, and very busy. Plus I have the time to spend being a dad and a husband and family member, but we can fit it all in and have some fun as well.
Q: Will the Packers bounce back?
JENNINGS: As I said before we have unfinished business and know that some adjustments need to be made, but we are all eager to get back to work this summer. I would much rather have been playing into February than doing other things, so yes we will be back. The Giants’ run was very similar to what we did last season and I am sure they enjoyed it and so many enjoyed watching their success and that of the Patriots, but we are already thinking about next season and not having such a long offseason.
For more about Greg Jennings and his work you can follow him on twitter @GregJennings or visit his foundation website http://www.gj85.com/