Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Dontayvion Wicks, the man who broke Herman Moore’s single-season receiving records at Virginia, has thoroughly outperformed his draft slot in his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers this year. Nonetheless, the fifth-round rookie wideout’s success in spite of a low draft slot has been an encouraging sign for Virginia football’s ability to produce NFL-caliber skill position talent.
Wicks finished his first season in the NFL with 39 receptions for 581 yards and four touchdowns. His 581 receiving yards were the most by any Virginia Cavaliers draftee in their rookie season since at least the NFL-AFL merger and helped propel a young but talented Green Bay Packers offense to their late playoff push.
In must-win games in Weeks 17 and 18 for the Packers, Wicks rose to the occasion with eight catches for 90 yards and a vital three touchdowns. Wicks’s two third-down TD receptions against the Bears in Week 18 propelled Green Bay to a 17-9 victory in a game to send his team to the postseason, and Wicks battled through a chest injury to record a game-leading 61 receiving yards.
That Week 18 game mattered to Wicks for reasons beyond the NFL, too. After hauling in his first touchdown pass of the game, Wicks ran to the end zone for a Lamebau leap and pointed up to the sky. The game took place on January 7, the birthday of his Virginia teammate Lavel Davis Jr. who tragically lost his life in the shooting on grounds on November 13, 2022. In an interview with Wes Hodkiewicz of the Packers, Wicks said “I had a heavy heart coming into the day, but I knew he’d be playing through me when I’m out there.”
Incredible AP photo of former #UVa star Dontayvion Wicks looking up to the sky after scoring the first of his two TDs in the Packers' win over the Bears on Sunday. His performance came on former teammate Lavel Davis Jr.'s birthday. This photo will be in Tuesday's @DailyProgress. pic.twitter.com/6txu1laiYA— John Shifflett (@John_Shifflett) January 8, 2024
It’s hard not to root for Wicks as he finds success at the next level. As a Cavalier, he was responsible for one of the all-time great receiving seasons in Virginia history during the 2021 campaign, recording a school record 27 catches of 20 or more yards and an unbelievable 1,203 yards in a high-powered offense helmed by Brennan Armstrong.
Wicks entered the NFL draft after the 2022 season and was selected in the fifth round with the 159th overall pick by the Packers. Joining a young but talented receiving corps led by Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, Wicks’s chemistry with starting quarterback Jordan Love developed over the course of the season and he earned a larger role in the offense. He was targeted at least four times in each of the last nine game he appeared in for Green Bay.
The success of Dontayvion Wicks at the next level bodes well for future wide receiver draft picks to come out of the university — most prominently star wide receiver Malik Washington, who shattered Wicks’s single-season receiving yardage record this year with 1,426 receiving yards and appears poised to have his name called at the NFL Draft in April.