Former Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings receiver Greg Jennings now works as analyst for Fox Sports and appears regularly as a commentator on FS1 shows. He talked with Acme Packing Company about life after the game, what he misses, and the mental wear and tear the NFL takes on your body and mind.
Greg Jennings was, for years, the number one wide receiver on the Green Bay Packers and a favorite target for a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Jennings played in Green Bay for seven of his ten NFL seasons, recording 6,537 receiving yards and 53 touchdowns on 425 receptions for the Packers.
In his second year out of football, Jennings has settled into life away from the game. He doesn’t necessarily miss playing the game, he says, but he does reflect back on his time as a football player and the success and experiences he had as a result.
Are you the kind of former athlete who still worries meticulously about what you’re eating and how your training?
I honestly would say no, but most would say yes (laughs) because it’s just kind of a way of life for me. I’ve never really been a terrible eater even before sports. Like, I’ve never been a dessert guy. I’ve always had a discipline of -- I wouldn’t even call it a discipline.
I guess it would be disciplined if it was a challenge to me. But not being a dessert guy or not being a bad eater, it’s not really a discipline for me. It’s kind of always been who I am.
To answer your question, yes I am that guy (laughs). I can’t allow myself to go -- I still train. Although I haven’t actually trained in the last month because of traveling. So, I started doing this push-up challenge with myself because I haven’t been able to go to the gym and I’ll tell you what, it legitimately works.
It’s been a couple years now since you’ve been out of the game and you’re still near it because you get to do a lot of analysis of it. You hear former athletes talk about it all the time and what they miss and it’s usually being around the guys, the Sunday feeling. Is there something you really still miss about the game?
I would honestly have to say no, I don’t. Strangely enough, there’s things I enjoyed about it, but to say there’s something that I miss I really ... I don’t miss, I really don’t miss any of it if that is even a thing.
And I found that out when I was down at the Super Bowl and I’m working the Super Bowl. I’m on the field before the game and I never once -- it didn’t dawn on me until after -- I never once put myself back out there, like saying “Man, I remember when,” or “I would be doing this right now.”
I never once did that. And I’m like ‘Man, I really don’t miss playing.’ And it kind of hit me like ‘Wow.’
But I will say this, the feeling of being in the game and playing the game, and having success at something that you can recall doing at such a young age and you’re there. For me, being able to reflect now, because when you’re in it, you don’t really reflect. You don’t look back over the span of the process that allowed you to get to this point.
So for me, that’s the thing I enjoy most now, being able to see a photo or a video or a highlight or whatever and reverse it all the way back to when I first started.
I hated football. I was scared to play because I was claustrophobic. LIke I thought I’d get trapped at the bottom of the pile.
To think of a kid having that mentality about a thing, a sport, and excelling at it at the highest level against the best competitors, on that level … like, it blows me away sometimes.
When J.J. Redick started his podcast, he talked about losing to the Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals and when they lost he said ‘I can’t believe we have to go do this all over again.’ It seems like that, more than anything, it what burns guys out.
Yes, it does. I remember in 2009 when I felt like that year we were starting to really click. It was Aaron’s second year starting. We were starting to click. We got to Arizona in the playoffs and it was that shootout.
We ended up losing and we clearly should have won that game. In overtime, we take a shot and I’m running down the middle of the field wide open. I guarantee you if Aaron could throw that ball 100 times with his eyes closed, he could hit me 95 times.
Like, with his eyes closed.
A couple plays later, he gets the sack fumble returned for a touchdown, we lose.
But I remember literally, just like J.J. alluded to, we’re on the plane and it’s that core group of guys … I remember Charles Woodson, Donald Driver, Aaron, myself, James Jones, Nick Barnett, Nick Collins, and I wanna say Ryan Grant, we were all kind of huddled up by the exit row.
I remember Charles saying, literally, and I quote “Man, what just happened?”
And Woodson never really, he never stood up on the plane, he always went to the back and just sat down. He’d never spill his feelings about the game right then and there, especially with offensive guys.
We knew we had squandered such an opportunity.
I remember it like yesterday. He was like “Man, I ain’t got too many more of those seasons in me like that … c’mon man.”
It was one of those feelings where we just blew such an opportunity, but we gotta do it again. And we have to start all the way -- and to know you can’t just start at the season, you have to go through camp, you have to go through the whole process all over again. Thinking about that, I’m so glad I’m done.
But to win it, man to win it, it’s an amazing -- that takes the cake.
You live on a golf course now. You and your whole family play the game. How did you get into golf?
So I’ve always dabbled in golf. One of my buddies back in college got me interested in golf so I would swing the golf clubs, but I never really was a golfer.
Over the course of my career, I had a golf outing. There were times when I was able to play in it and there were times when I was just shaking hands and walking around, seeing how everyone was doing and I couldn’t play. And I was like ‘Man, I really want to play.’ But I wasn’t a good golfer.
I could hit the ball, I could hack away. I was probably a 25, and legitimate 25 handicap. I didn’t even have a true handicap at the time. It wasn’t until after I retired, going into retirement I started really golfing more. And then my kids started playing lessons and I watched this instructor and I was like “Man, he is really good.”
The year after I retired, I jumped in with this guy.
Now, anytime I have a moment I’m gone. My clubs go with me pretty much everyone. I keep a set of clubs in LA for when I’m out there.
I went from like a 25 handicap to now I’m like a 13.
Our thanks to Greg for taking the time to speak with us.