brown photo 12-3

Packers' Equanimeous St. Brown produced 54 yards from scrimmage in the Nov. 21 loss to the Vikings. 

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GREEN BAY — The question came via Zoom, from Germany. Equanimeous St. Brown’s answer was, well, ausgezeichnet, you might say in German.

The Green Bay Packers wide receiver had been talking — in English — about the way quarterback Aaron Rodgers had encouraged him after St. Brown had been released at the end of training camp. It had meant a lot to St. Brown, a 2018 sixth-round draft pick whose time in Green Bay had been full of ups and downs.

Now, the German reporter was seeking clarification on what Rodgers had said and why it was so important to St. Brown. So, St. Brown, who has dual U.S.-Germany citizenship because his mother, Miriam, grew up in Germany and still speaks her native language — both verbally and in text messages — to her sons, responded. In German.

Loosely translated, St. Brown replied, “He texted me. Wanted to tell me he had my back, that he wanted me to stay with the team on the practice squad. And that hopefully, I’ll be back on the team towards the end of the season and can make plays for him.”

As it turns out, Rodgers — in any language — was right. Although St. Brown’s offensive numbers aren’t exactly impressive (six receptions for 62 yards on 10 targets, plus two carries for 24 yards), he has contributed, both on offense and special teams. He had 54 yards from scrimmage in the Nov. 21 loss at Minnesota (26- and 17-yard receptions and an 11-yard run) and has recorded six special teams tackles, third-most on the team despite only playing in nine of the 12 games before this week’s bye.

On top of that, Rodgers has gone out of his way of late to publicly praise St. Brown.

“I’m really proud of EQ,” Rodgers said after St. Brown’s performance against the Vikings. (Rodgers reiterated that position after last Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams, too.) “I got ahold of him and had a nice conversation with him at the end of training camp when he was released. I just felt like there was going to be an opportunity for him at some point during the season.”

After the Rams game, Rodgers added: “I do want to continue to highlight EQ. He was released from the team, and he’s come back to us and done a really nice job. It doesn’t always show up big in the stat sheet, but he’s a guy I trust a lot and a guy who’s made some timely plays for us. So (I’m) really proud of him and all the other guys who’ve stepped in.”

Before this stretch, it was hard for others to envision St. Brown having any meaningful role given he spent the season’s first five weeks on the practice squad (though he did get called up to the active roster three times) and how his first three seasons had played out.

As a rookie in 2018, he played in 12 games (seven starts) and caught 21 passes for 328 yards — a solid start given how difficult it can be for rookie receivers to mesh with Rodgers. He suffered an ankle injury during a 2019 preseason game and spent that entire year on injured reserve.

Last season, St. Brown came back to make the team again coming out of training camp but missed a month early in the year with a knee injury, finished the regular season with merely seven receptions for 117 yards and his first NFL touchdown, then dropped a crucial two-point conversion pass from Rodgers (a ball that was slightly deflected) that helped seal the Packers’ fate in an NFC Championship Game loss to the eventual Super Bowl LV-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“He’s kind of been back and forth a little bit this whole year, and I think it’s a credit to him mentally just to be able to keep grinding and keep earning trust and keep working,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “In his opportunities, he’s made the best of them. He’s been right where Aaron expects him to be. I think that is so important in this game. When you run a route, if we say 6 yards, it’s got to be 6 yards. It’s not at 8 or 5. … He’s earned (Rodgers’) trust.”

Added coach Matt LaFleur: “EQ’s done a great job. He’s owned his role, not only as a wide receiver, going out there, being physical, making some big plays. But he’s also done a great job on special teams. He’s done a heck of a job.”

Especially on special teams, which St. Brown hadn’t played since his freshman year of college at Notre Dame. St. Brown said he believes one of the reasons he was released at the end of camp was the coaches didn’t think he could contribute on the coverage units, and that he had to prove he could if he wanted to get back on the roster. He also praised special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton, whom he called “one of my favorite coaches of all-time.”

That said, St. Brown insists he didn’t need any sort of wake-up call after his first three seasons — he also insisted there haven’t been any “downs” in his relationship with Rodgers, who has shown on-field frustration with St. Brown from time to time, including earlier this season — but he did acknowledge getting cut and returning to the team as a practice-squader after three years on the active roster was difficult.

“It was tough, you know? That day was tough and when I first came in the building, that was tough. I just had to switch my mind and say, I’ve got to work harder and make the most of my opportunities,’” St. Brown said. “One thing I remember was my locker being changed (from the main locker room to the auxiliary locker room with the other practice-squad players. (It’s) just different being in the room and being on the team. Practice squad, just a little different.”

But when asked if he needed that demotion to motivate him or change his approach, St. Brown quickly said no.

“I would have been happy to never have to deal with that. Yeah, for sure,” he said. “But it was a different experience. We all go through things in life, and just have to work hard.”

And now, that hard work is being rewarded, just as Rodgers’ faith is.

“It felt good. As my quarterback and who he is as a player, (for him) to have my back after I got cut and him reaching out meant a lot to me,” St. Brown said. “(It) meant a lot that he had my back, and I knew that once I got my opportunity, he was going to give me a chance to make plays.”

Photos: Packers' 2021 season in pictures

Check out photo galleries from every game of 2021 from the preseason through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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