GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Geronimo Allison can admit it now: He was worried in June when he rolled his ankle.
Worried when he missed the Green Bay Packers' minicamp.
Worried when July 4 passed and it still didn’t feel right.
So worried, in fact, that he returned to Green Bay shortly after the holiday, weeks before players were required to report for training camp on July 26.
“Yeah a little bit, definitely worried a little bit,” Allison said during a recent interview.
So Allison did what he always has done: Attacked his rehab with everything he had. It’s what got Allison into the NFL after a difficult path from a rough neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, where he played only one year of high school football because of poor grades, to Iowa Western Community College to the University of Illinois to the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
Here’s Allison now, 24 years old and firmly entrenched as the Packers’ No. 3 receiver -- a position that’s considered a starter in coach Mike McCarthy’s pass-heavy offense. And two weeks into his third NFL season, he looks every bit as capable as any No. 3 receiver in the league.
“You’re just now seeing that?” Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said with surprise in his voice. “I’m telling him you said that. Nah, but G-Mo is a hell of a player. It’s his work ethic. I don’t think anybody can touch his work ethic and that’s down to special teams and the snaps he gets on offense. He’s a guy who doesn’t take any day for granted. He cherishes every day he walks into the building and you can see it in him every time he comes in here. He’s a different breed.
“That’s just what his agenda is. He does certain things a certain way and if it’s not that way, he’ll do it again. He’s a professional at a young age.”
Through two games, he has 11 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. He is tied for 24th among all receivers in catches and tied for 26th in yards -- solid positions for any No. 3 receiver.
Perhaps more importantly, he has teamed with Randall Cobb (13 catches for 172 yards and one touchdown) and Davante Adams (13 catches for 152 and two touchdowns) to give Aaron Rodgers plenty of options even after he lost his favorite receiver, Jordy Nelson, who was cut in the offseason.
Some consider this year’s season opener, when Allison caught a 39-yard touchdown pass to start the comeback against the Bears, as his "I belong" moment.
Rodgers, however, said that came much earlier.
“In the first game he played he scored a touchdown,” Rodgers said.
That was six days after he was promoted from the practice squad as a rookie. With the Packers short on receivers for an Oct. 30, 2016, game at Atlanta, Allison caught two passes for 21 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown on his first catch. He became the first Packers player to make his first reception a touchdown since tight end Ryan Taylor in 2011.
In the season finale against the Lions later that year, Allison caught four passes for a team-high 91 yards and a touchdown, including a 39-yard catch down the sideline in the final seconds of the first half to set up a field goal.
“G-Mo, I’ve always had a lot of confidence in him,” Rodgers said. “He’s a great teammate, he has a great professional work ethic, he’s prepared, he knows the offense really well, and that’s the starting point of any type of trust is the mental part. So I expect him to be in the right spot and to run the routes the right way and if he’s open, he’ll get the ball.”
Still, Allison’s opportunities weren’t in abundance last season. He caught 23 passes for 253 yards without a touchdown. Nearly half of his yardage (122 on six catches) came in one game against the Bengals, when his 72-yard catch in overtime set up the game-winning field goal.
Allison had every chance to lose his spot after the Packers drafted three receivers and watched former practice-squader Jake Kumerow start hot in training camp. But with his ankle injury mostly healed, Allison did what he always has done to impress his quarterback. He did not miss a single training camp practice and caught just about everything thrown his way.
“Consistency,” Allison said when asked how he gained Rodgers’ trust. “Knowing my stuff, knowing my plays and being in the right spot at the right time and finishing.”
Now, it looks like Allison is just getting started.