The Packers went into the draft with a couple of holes on the offensive side of the ball, and did their part to address most of them. They brought in a talented interior lineman who could play almost any position on the line in Elgton Jenkins and spent their highest pick on a tight end since Bubba Franks to get Jace Sternberger. He will bring a new level of playmaking to our offense and gives Rodgers a great route runner to play with this coming season. I wanted to learn more about Jace Sternberger, so I got in contact with his college tight end coach Tim Brewster.
Coach Brewster started our conversation off before I could ask any questions by saying, “I like the dude a lot, and I wish I was coaching him again this year.” That was the tone throughout our whole conversation. The respect, admiration, and honestly love for Sternberger was something you could hear in everything that Coach Brewster said. One trait that Coach Brewster mentioned that made him love coaching Sternberger was his work ethic. More than once Brewster mentioned how hard he works. He wasn’t even a starter at Junior College or Kansas, but he worked and become not only a starter in the SEC but a top tight end in the nation. He was chosen to be on the All-SEC First Team which Coach Brewster described as, “second only to the NFL.” Sternberger is not the type of player who comes into the NFL and expected to have things handed to him.
I asked Coach Brewster where he expected Sternberger to be taken in the draft, and he said that he expected him to a little bit higher in the second round. He said that Sternberger is an explosive player, but did not test well at the combine. He said that scouts put a lot of weight on the 40 time at the combine, but Sternberger is an explosive player who has great lateral quickness. “Packers got great value with where they were able to get Jace in the draft.” Coach Brewster truly believes that Sternberger is the best tight end in the draft, and so does Jace himself. Coach Brewster mentioned that one of Sternberger’s strengths is his confidence. “He truly believes he is meant to be there, and he will work to get better.” Brewster had a lot of great things to say about his former tight end, but one that I did not expect to hear was Jace Sternberger’s preparation and meeting etiquette. A lot of coaches mention the work ethic and drive that their players have, but Coach Brewster mentioned that he taught Sternberger how to take notes and ask questions in team meetings. “Your career is determined on how you take notes in the meeting room. I taught Jace how to take good notes and ask good questions. He also knows when to keep his mouth shut and learn from the great players around him.”
I asked Tim Brewster what is the best thing he is bringing to the Packers on day one, and he immediately said, “his route running.” Sternberger is a playmaker, plain and simple. He can run routes and has strong hands to make the catch. One area that Coach Brewster thinks he excels in is his running after the catch. “Players who can catch the ball are a dime a dozen, but players who can run after they catch it get paid. “Jace is hard to bring down”. Brewster compared him to Travis Kelce because of his ability to catch the ball and make plays happen. He said Sternberger isn’t as long, but he sees a lot of similarities between the two. Sternberger showed just how hard it is to bring him down against the Gamecocks this year when he carried a defender for 20 yards before falling to the ground.
Sternberger has a lot of great qualities he is bringing to the team, but that does not mean that he does not have things to work on. One area of improvement is his blocking. He is not known for his blocking, but Coach Brewster is confident he is going to put in the work to improve it. His former coach said, “Jace doesn’t just want to be a receiving tight end, he truly wants to become a three-down player. “He will put the work and time in to make it happen.” He also was extremely impressed with his motor during practice. He mentioned that Sternberger would run over 7,000 yards with him during practice, and the pace he kept throughout was incredible. Sternberg is coming into the best situation for him. He has Jimmy Graham, who is one of the best receiving tight ends to play in the NFL, to help him fine-tune his offensive ability to help impact the passing attack. He also has Mercedes Lewis there who is a dominant run blocker. He has two tight ends who can both coach and mentor him to allow him to evolve into the three-down tight-end he wants to be.
One question that I wanted to make sure I talked to Coach Brewster was if Jace Sternberger could earn Aaron Rodgers’ trust. Rodgers is an elite QB, but he doesn’t just throw the ball to anyone. Over the years it has come out that Rodgers really needs to trust you in the offense, and he will target you when you have his trust. That has never been more evident than this year when Davante Adams was targeted 169 times, which was more than double the next receiver. Coach Brewster was optimistic that he would gain Rodgers’ trust but knew it will not be easy. “Aaron is the best quarterback. He is great. Jace won’t gain his trust overnight, but he will have to gain it through his work. He will have to politely ask Aaron to stay after practice with him to run routes and get the timing down. He will have to do things to gain his trust, but I know he will eventually earn it.”
As we were getting to the end our conversation, the topic went away from football and to Sternberger’s character. He told me a story about a student he befriended when he was younger who had a brain tumor. Unfortunately, his friend ended up passing from the tumor, but has impacted Sternberger’s life. “Jace has a tattoo on his shoulder to remember his friend. This kid is not only an incredible athlete but a stand-up guy. He is a great kid.” Sternberger is coming into a franchise that has always held their players to a high standard, and from what Coach Brewster said, he will fit right into the team’s culture.
Tim Brewster has a great track record with coaching tight ends who have had successful careers in the NFL. He has coached Pro-Bowl tight ends in Alge Crumpler and Stephen Alexander, and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Coach Brewster has a great ability in identifying and coaching talented tight ends. When he mentioned these players during our conversation, he had this to say about Sternberger, “even with coaching all of these players, Jace is one of the most talented I’ve worked with. The thing about Jace is that his upside is so high.” Players coming from college to the NFL is a tough transition, but one thing for certain is that Jace Sternberger has all of the tools to become an elite tight end in the NFL.