Packers QB Aaron Rodgers might have jump-started NFL career of Kansas basketball player Tarik Black
It started at the airport.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ran into Kansas basketball coach Bill Self last year and got himself invited to a game.
Rodgers came to Lawrence in January, gave a pep talk to the Jayhawks, and met the players.
Tarik Black, a forward in his senior season, picks up the tale from there:
"Green Bay is my favorite team. I told him, 'Hey, I understand you're hurt; we need you healthy. We need a championship.' Then he says, 'You should help me win it. Come play some tight end.' So I say, 'Give me a contract and make it happen.' "
Black thought the whole interchange was a joke.
Apparently Rodgers did not.
The Packers passer went to Self and said, "I want to throw balls at him and see what he can do." And considering Black is 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, and had more than one foul for every two points last season, that made sense. (The Kansas bio calls him "a bruising forward.")
It all just shocked Black.
"One of the guys in our media department said, 'Aaron Rodgers likes you. Likes you a lot,'" he recalls.
Black laughed it off. Then he heard this:
"No, he really likes you. He wants you to try out for Green Bay."
It still didn't register. Even when Black was handed Rodgers' cell phone number, he refused to text the former MVP for a month. "I didn't know what to say," he explains. Black's roommate had to nudge him into it. Finally he composed a message:
"Just wanted to see if you were serious," Black wrote.
"I'm definitely interested," Rodgers wrote back. "If there's something I can do, let me know."
Soon, Black was on the phone with a Packers scout, and still bewildered by the whole episode.
Adding to the bewilderment was this little factoid about Tarik Black: he has no football experience.
"Zero," says his new agent, Chad Wiestling.
Black gets the slightest bit defensive when asked about his football background.
"I plead the Fifth," he says.
He did play some growing up in Memphis, but never in pads.
"I know what an out route is," Black says. "But certain terms I'd be like, 'Huh?'"
That hasn't stopped the intrigue. There has been an intense pursuit of converted basketball players ever since Antonio Gates became one of the best tight ends in NFL history. Jimmy Graham has emerged as a star for the Saints and Julius Thomas played in the Super Bowl in February. Now Black has been scouted by Aaron Rodgers.
Both Black and Wiestling say three NFL teams have expressed interest. One unnamed team, in fact, showed its zeal by asking the NBA team in the city it shares to reach out to Wiestling for Black's number. His agency actually got a call from an NBA team on behalf of an NFL team.
"Pretty cool, pretty cool," says Black.
So what does this mean? It's unlikely Black gets drafted next week but it is possible he gets invited to a rookie minicamp. If that happens, Black says he would lean toward going. There is, however, another sport with a draft this summer.
"Basketball is my love," Black says. "I'm definitely going to put effort into making basketball my life. But an opportunity presented itself and I want that opportunity to hold."
Even if he has to settle for chasing only one of his one-in-a-million dreams, Black still has the phone number of his favorite player on his favorite team. That's something.
"It'll be cool to text Aaron Rodgers," he says.