Knee and ankle injuries suffered this fall curtailed Utah State running back Devante Mays' senior season before he could showcase his physical gifts. An abbreviated senior season for a junior college transfer figured to only decrease the odds of him catching the eyes of NFL scouts and talent evaluators.
Despite the injury and limited exposure this fall, Mays' skill set enticed the Green Bay Packers to select him with the 20th pick in the seventh round of the NFL draft (238th overall) on Saturday.
The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Mays was the lone Utah State player selected in this year's draft.
"Right now, I just plan on getting there, focusing, learning everything that I need to learn [and] just being able to find a way to be able to contribute to the team in whatever way that may be — special teams, anything like that," Mays told The Tribune when reached by phone.
Mays watched the draft at home in Texas along with his mother, Elwanda, and he admitted that he'd started to assume he'd have to go the undrafted free-agent route if he was going to land with an NFL team.
Then he got surprised by a phone call.
"Green Bay had called me first, asked am I ready to be a Packer and I was like, 'Yes,' " Mays said. "Right then I knew. Then it came on the TV, and my mom was crying and stuff. It was really exciting for me, but my mom started crying and my brother was in the house yelling."
Mays put together an impressive showing at the Aggies' Pro Day in Logan on March 31. He showed that he'd fully recovered from a bone bruise to his right knee and high ankle sprain on the same leg that forced him to miss all but six games this past fall. He rushed for a career-high 208 yards with three touchdowns on 18 carries in last fall's season opener against Weber State. He finished the season with 269 yards on 37 carries.
A native of Livingston, Texas, Mays graduated with 1,225 yards rushing and a 6.1 yards per carry average for his two-year career with the Aggies after playing his first two collegiate seasons at Blinn Junior College in Texas (sophomore) and Tyler Junior College in Texas (freshman).
While Mays was not invited to the NFL combine, he visited the Packers roughly two weeks ago and met members of the staff and team. He also got checked out by the team's medical staff.
While in town to meet with the Packers, Mays also got to see former USU teammates and current Packers Marwin Evans, a safety, and Kyler Fackrell, a linebacker. Mays said he thought the presence of Evans and Fackrell probably aided the Packer's decision to draft him.
The Packers selected three running backs in the draft for the first time since 1974. The trio includes former BYU running back Jamaal Williams (fourth round) and Aaron Jones out of UTEP (fifth round) along with Mays.
"The whole process has been a blessing, just being able to go through this," Mays said. "I know not every college player gets to go through this so I'm thankful for that -- just the opportunity that Green Bay has given me. I'm thankful just because I didn't get to play my senior year, and it didn't go as I envisioned it to go. Just being able to be drafted is like a huge blessing."
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