James Jones was at The Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, California, watching the 2014 NFL Draft.
Jones had spent seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, winning Super Bowl XLV with the franchise. The wide receiver hit free agency that summer and signed with the Silver and Black. Jones considered becoming a Raider a fairly easy decision to make at the time. The San Jose, California, native left the cold, frigid Wisconsin winters behind to return home – already residing in the Bay Area while he was playing with the Packers.
While watching the second round of the draft from the hotel, he saw his new team draft quarterback Derek Carr from Fresno State University. Seventeen picks later, his former team was on the clock, and they selected Carr's main receiver at Fresno State, Davante Adams.
After seeing the Packers' choice, Jones placed a phone call to former teammate Jordy Nelson – who was coming off an 1,314-yard, eight touchdown season. He felt the need let Nelson know that this young man from Fresno State could very well be coming for his job as Aaron Rodgers' No. 1 receiver.
"I said, 'Jordy, you better get your stuff right,'" Jones recollected. "I called him and Randall [Cobb] and said, 'Y'all better get y'all stuff right, because the young boy can go.' I said, 'He's going to come, and if y'all ain't on your P's and Q's, he's going to take y'all's spot.'"
Nelson and Cobb laughed over the phone as he advised them to take heed. But once Adams arrived in Green Bay, he quickly began to establish himself as the guy Jones told them he would be.
Jones' knowledge of Adams' skills weren't just from watching his highlights. The two Bay Area receivers trained together while Adams was attending summer classes at San Jose City College his freshman year. He was there trying to fulfill academic requirements in order to play football at Fresno State, while Jones used their facilities for his offseason training.
The two got connected through Keith Williams, who is currently the Baltimore Ravens' pass game specialist. Williams was Jones' wide receivers coach at San Jose State for two seasons before serving as offensive coordinator at San Jose City College and later moving on in 2009 to coach receivers at Fresno State. Williams also played a huge role in recruiting Adams to Fresno State, despite academics putting a damper on his high school recruitment.
For Adams, the opportunity to train with Jones helped in his progression as a young receiver, and showed him the hard work and sacrifice it would take if he wanted to reach the next level.
"It was great because I got to see him real close. An up close and personal version of what it really looks like training as a top NFL player," said Adams. "I got to learn, in a very specific way, techniques from him. His leadership was something that was big to me."
After the 2014 season, Jones left Oakland and re-signed with the Green Bay Packers for the last season of his NFL career, becoming teammates with the young receiver he once trained with in San Jose. Now practicing together daily, the lessons for Adams continued, as the veteran receiver helped him through a difficult second season. Adams missed three games due to a lingering ankle injury, and had a career-low one receiving touchdown.
"Everybody in that room – Randall, Jordy, James – they knew what I was about, and they knew what I was capable of," said Adams. "There was really no big panic, no scrambling around even though I wasn't playing great. They were just like, 'Keep your mind right and continue to put it on tape.'"
The leadership of Jones and the Packers receiving corps certainly proved to be invaluable for the receiver still finding his way in the league.
"I feel like I came back to Green Bay for a reason, because that year [Adams] messed his ankle up real bad," Jones said. "But Tae – he isn't going to miss any games unless his leg is falling off. He was battling through that injury the whole year, so it was good for me to be there with him while he was going through the ups and downs."
The following season, Jones signed with the San Diego Chargers but was released before the start of the regular season, leading to his choice to retire and shift to working as an analyst for NFL Network. As for Adams, that 2016 season would begin his rise in the NFL. He totaled 997 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns that year, and would go on to lead the Packers in receiving yards, catches and receiving touchdowns every season from 2017 until his trade to the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2022 offseason, with Jones one of the many watching in awe.
"As Tae got going, he was seeing the game before it happened," Jones said of Adams' progression through the years. "He's really like a quarterback at the receiver position, and that's how he plays. And a lot of the times that's why he's wide open, and it really doesn't matter the coverage because he's so smart. He's knows how to set you up, he knows what the defense is going to do before they're going to do it and it doesn't matter if you adjust on the fly – he's going to adjust on the fly.
"And that's one of the big adjustments that I've seen him make since his rookie year to now. He just understands the game so well and he's an extremely smart player."
Jones, now working as on-camera talent for Silver and Black Productions, has watched Adams flourish like the veteran receiver expected and is thrilled to be able to watch and analyze No. 17's game up close once again. Adams hasn't slowed down as a Raider, recording 1,275 receiving yards through 14 games and earning his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl nod.
It's a lovely coincidence that the two Bay Area friends careers' paralleled from being Packers star receivers to going back home and playing for their hometown franchise.
"He's one of the great all-time Packers, and we both spent a lot of time with the Packers," said Adams. "Obviously, he didn't have a long career with the Raiders, but my career with the Raiders so far has been short as well – so it's pretty similar paths we've taken. It's great to have him around, good to see him around the locker room and talk to him from time to time. It's been nice."
Take a look at images from Pro Bowlers Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby and Josh Jacobs' 2022 seasons so far in the Silver and Black.