An Elmo Backpack and a Pass-Catching Knack

USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is barely 20 years old, was scheduled to meet with the Green Bay Packers at the Scouting Combine.

INDIANAPOLIS – JuJu Smith-Schuster wore an Elmo backpack at USC. This writer has a “Thomas and Friends” sticker of Gordon the engine on his audio recorder.

That makes us cool, right, JuJu?

“That’s right!” he said after his media session at the Scouting Combine on Friday.

Smith-Schuster, who is considered a Day 2 prospect after an excellent career at USC, said he was scheduled to have a formal interview with the Green Bay Packers on Friday night.

Smith-Schuster, who measured in at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, made good on his five-star recruiting status. He had three big seasons for the Trojans, with 54 receptions for 724 yards (13.4 average) and five touchdowns as freshman, 89 catches for 1,454 yards (16.3) and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore and 70 catches for 914 yards (13.1) and 10 touchdowns as a junior. That gave him 213 catches, 3,092 yards (14.5 average) and 25 touchdowns.

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“When teams ask me what I’m best at, obviously, I say football IQ,” he said. “I played 39 games, started 38 games. I’m tough. I played through a broken hand and didn’t miss a game. Played through a torn thumb, didn’t miss a game. And just very competitive. Willing to work. Willing to put my body out there on a line.”

Smith-Schuster said he’s heard his style of play compared to that of two of the NFL’s more physical receivers: Anquan Boldin and Dez Bryant.

With “Anquan Bolden, his speed (and), at the same time, the way he plays, the way he approaches the game, how he plays his game and how tough he is. I kind of see myself the same way.”

His desire to make plays goes beyond the offense.

“It’s me being in the front-line kickoff return, me being on punt, me being a gunner. Those are all great things that I bring, can package to teams.”

Smith-Schuster didn’t redshirt as a freshman, so at 20 years, 3 months old, he’s one of the youngest players in this draft class.

“It doesn’t affect me,” he said. “I got a lot of questions, ‘You are the youngest player, you’re immature, you’re 20 years old,’ but I don’t see an age number. I can’t change that. I feel like I played football for a very long time through the years. I think the age is actually good. A young dude who’s willing to work.”

Smith-Schuster has worked out with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz, one of the top picks in last year’s draft, offered some sensible advice to get Smith-Schuster ready for the Combine.

“I learned a lot on and off the field,” he said. “He basically told me about the Combine and what to expect, how to handle it. You only do it once and he said you should embrace it. Make sure you’re the first at the drug test because it’s a long line, which it was. Just a lot of football good IQ. When to come in, when to throttle down against different defenses and stuff.”

Smith-Schuster is a family man. Hence, the hyphen in his last name, which honors his stepfather, Lawrence Schuster. Family is why he flipped to USC from Oregon, so he could be nearer his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.

“Growing up as a kid, my biological dad stepped out of my life when I was 4,” he said. “My stepdad stepped into my life. He was my male role model. He basically taught me right from wrong and, to this day, the reason why who I am today -- a very respectful young man -- is because of him. In honor to take his name, keep Smith because of my auntie, who’s African-American, who stayed in my life, and to honor my dad with Schuster.”

And family is why Smith-Schuster – one of seven children in the family – wears kids-themed backpacks.

“All through my college career,” he said, “I had a ‘Minions’ backpack that the person kind of talks and then it lights up. It’s pretty dope, though. I switched over to Elmo. The ‘Minions’ backpack couldn’t handle all my schoolwork – it was breaking apart – and then Elmo caught my eye and took over.

“I love my brothers and sisters,” he added. “When we went backpack shopping, they thought I should get one, so I got one. And then they said, ‘You should get an Elmo one now.’”

Bill Huber is publisher of and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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