Larry Pinkard was gone but not forgotten.
As a junior at Old Dominion, Pinkard was star quarterback Taylor Heinecke’s favorite target, with his team-leading totals of 68 receptions for 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns ranking among the best seasons in school history. That included big games against two FCS opponents: eight catches for 92 yards against East Carolina and seven catches for 96 yards against Maryland.
With the Monarchs transitioning to FBS and Heinecke a legit NFL prospect, Pinkard was primed to join his quarterback as a potential draft pick.
Then, on June 29, Pinkard was kicked off the team for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Just like that, his career was over. He transferred to Bluefield, a school located in Bluefield, Va., that was fielding a football team for the third year since dropping the program in World War II, but wasn’t eligible to play. With that, his draft prospects were shot.
Even though he was ineligible, Pinkard toiled away every day on the scout team.
“I was surprised he kept practicing after finding out he’d be ineligible,” Bluefield coach Ordell Walker said via e-mail. “He played scout offense to prepare our defense each week for the game. And everyone knew he was the most talented guy on the field. For a new program with basically all young players, he was a great example.”
The Packers hadn’t forgotten about the prolific receiver who ran his 40 in the low 4.4s at Old Dominion’s junior pro day. At one point during Bluefield’s season, Green Bay scout Lee Gissendaner dropped by practice. According to Walker, the Packers and Redskins were the only teams that sent a scout.
“I definitely had a positive outlook,” Pinkard said. “This is what I always wanted since I was 6 years old. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of it. I just kept pushing. And my family helped me out along the way.”
After the season, Pinkard kept working and, in the months leading to the draft, he worked out in Atlanta with Heinecke in anticipation of Old Dominion’s pro day. Pinkard (6-0, 196) ran his 40 in 4.51 seconds with a 36-inch vertical. It wasn’t enough to get back into the draft conversation but it was enough to pique several teams’ interest.
When it was time to pick his team after the draft, the Packers, Chiefs, Vikings, Jaguars and Raiders were in the running. Ultimately, Green Bay was an easy choice – never mind the loaded state of their receiver corps.
“I felt this was ultimately the best place for me,” Pinkard said following the Packers’ rookie orientation camp. “They have a great quarterback, great receiving coach, great receiving corps. I think it’ll be good for me to learn from them to help with my future.”
The Packers are loaded at receiver, with Myles White (nine catches in 2013), Jared Abbrederis (fifth round, 2014) and Jeff Janis (seventh round, 2014) joining third-round rookie Ty Montgomery in the battle to be the fourth, fifth and, potentially, sixth receivers on the roster. Still, that Green Bay gave Pinkard a $3,000 signing bonus despite sitting out his senior season shows he’s got some talent.
“It definitely means a lot,” Pinkard said of the opportunity. “The Green Bay Packers are definitely a winning organization. For them to bring me in, I believe they see something in me that I can help contribute toward the team.”
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