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'He’s going to prove everybody wrong'
Now that the Jordan Love Era is here, let's chat with one former Utah State wide receiver who knows the quarterback best. Ron'Quavion Tarver expects greatness.
To most of the football world, Jordan Love remains a mystery man. We’ve seen preseason teases, primetime snippets and… that’s about it. But there’s a reason the Green Bay Packers are so confidently forging ahead with the 2020 first-round pick.
This new sheriff in Brown County, Wisc., is ready.
In light of Aaron Rodgers confirming what was reported at Go Long in mid-February — that the Packers are correctly on — here’s a conversation I had with someone who knows Love best: former Utah State wide receiver Ron’Quavion Tarver. Aside from having a phenomenal name, Tarver was both Love’s go-to receiver his best year at Utah State and remains one of his best friends.
When Love burst onto the scene as top-level NFL prospect, in ‘18, Tarver caught 66 passes for 709 yards with eight touchdowns. That season, the Aggies tied a school record with 11 wins.
They’ve shared many memories on the field, off the field and still stay in daily contact.
Tarver helps us understand Love’s mentality through this excruciating three-year wait, why Jordan Love was born to lead and also digs into what makes him special as a quarterback.
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What kind of guy was Jordan at Utah State?
Tarver: Off the field, Jordan was my best friend at Utah. Jordan is just a call away. There was a group of us. … We were super close. Every day, after practice. There were times I didn’t even stay where I was staying at. I stayed with Jordan. We were like brothers. Best friends. The six of us were real close. Jordan’s a good guy. You can always talk to him. You can always rely on him. Going into my senior year, my grandfather passed away. Jordan was helping me move and stuff and — I didn’t tell him — but he noticed I wasn’t myself. I told him, and we just stopped what we were doing. He’s like, “Let’s go to the field and get your mind off of it.” After that day, I had so much respect for Jordan.
So, he could just tell that something was wrong?
Tarver: He could tell. Usually, I’m outgoing and outspoken. That day, I was to myself. I wasn’t talking as much. He’s like, “What’s wrong with you? You’re not yourself. I let him know what’s up and we went to run routes. We were racing and stuff. Anything to get me in a better spirit. That meant a lot to me, man.
As a friend, how did he know something was up? That takes a special person, outside of a quarterback.
Tarver: Jordan is a good dude, man. Once you get to know him, he opens up. He can be playful — in a good way, not a bad. Good energy. No bad vibes from him. He never has bad days. Even if something goes wrong, you wouldn’t know it if you were on the outside looking in. He came down on his bye week, in Miami, and we hung out. We talk every day. We have a Snapstreak where we check in on each other. I get up in the morning, I go to the gym, and I’ll send him a picture. Like, “This is where I’m at today.” In the locker room. Anything like that.
Did you open up to Jordan about the hurt you were going through?
Tarver: He was helping me transition from my old place to my new place. I let him know what was going — that my grandfather had just passed. I was planning on going back to Florida. I think it was during camp when it happened. We ended up going to the facility to run routes. Even when I came down to Florida, he called me: “You good? How’s the family?” He’d hit me up. “How’s your Mom doing?” I got to meet his Mom. There’s love there. A relationship there. That’s my boy, man.
He's gone through so much as football player that we forget what he’s gone through as a teenager — losing his Dad the way he did. I can’t imagine how tragic that was for Jordan, but it probably gave him an unbelievable perspective with his friends.
Tarver: And he didn’t talk about it a lot. I didn’t really find out about it until for a minute. I lost my Dad, too. But I lost my Dad when I was 10 months old. So I never really got to…
How did you lose him?
Tarver: He got shot in Florida.
Do you sense a level of empathy in Jordan from all that?
Tarver: That shaped him. You could tell it bothered him. You could tell he missed his Dad.
How do you think that shaped him?
Tarver: It made him care more about others. Because my first time meeting him on my visit, I didn’t even know Jordan played football. He was like, “Hey, I’m Jordan.” I’m like, “Who is this guy?” And when I came back, I was laughing. Because he was so young at the time. He matured so much. It’s like watching your little brother grow up.
When you were on the field together — coming up at Utah State — your OC David Yost said he could tell Jordan was special, and they gradually got him in there as the starter. You caught some of those early touchdowns in ‘17. What did you see early on that suggested he was special?
Tarver: Me and Jordan put in a ton of work. We’d go to the indoor (facility), grab a couple cornerbacks. I stayed with all the receivers. We were putting in so much work. In Kent (Myers), he was a great quarterback. But anybody could tell Jordan was the better quarterback. Jordan should’ve been playing my sophomore year. Even when he became the man, he wasn’t a cocky person. Even now. He went first round and Jordan is still the same person. No cockiness. No arrogance. None of that. He’s himself.
Which may be a welcomed change for the Packers. I think a lot of fans out there want to know what kind of person they’re getting in their new quarterback.
Tarver: You’re getting a team player. He’s going to know everybody’s name on the team. He’s going to build a relationship with them. So it’s going to be more than just football in the locker room with Jordan. It’s going to turn into a family.
You know his personality. The Packers have younger players around Jordan on offense — what could build in Green Bay?
Tarver: You know how A-Rod is more laidback? He showboats when he’s winning. He’s kind of cocky. Jordan is more… how can I… you know how everyone loves Cam Newton? He likes to dance. He loves kids. I think Jordan could change the culture. I don’t know how to say it, but he’s totally different from A-Rod. He’s more outspoken. He likes to have more fun. A-Rod is an older guy than Jordan. Eventually, he’ll get to the point like A-Rod where he’s more laidback but Jordan, he likes to have fun. He loves fun. And that comes with winning. So you know how that goes.
What does he like to do off the field? As a person? He’s still a mystery to a lot of people.
Tarver: Jordan is actually a great basketball player. Jordan can play basketball. All quarterbacks are special on the court but he’s got game. He can shoot. He can pass. He can dunk. He’s a hooper.
The Philly game was almost perfect. But only his teammates — back to Utah State, Green Bay — are the ones who’ve seen him at his best as a player. Siaosi Mariner, another receiver, wasn’t shy when we chatted. He said Jordan was doing the same stuff Patrick Mahomes was at that time. What makes him special to you?
Tarver: The ability to make every throw. He can make any throw on a football field. Tight window, no window, open window. He can make literally any throw on the football field.
What were those tougher throws?
Tarver: He made it so easy. I didn’t have to do much. The ball is right there. It was all Jordan. There were a couple times I had to jump, but that man can throw that rock. He’s special.
You had Jordan when he was really at his best in 2018 with your offense at full strength. How did he catch fire that season?
Tarver: After the bowl game (in 2017), it’s like the whole team came together and said, “Man…” — and Coach Dave preached to us every day in the summer — “they have us projected to win six games. It’s up to y’all. It’s not up to me. It’s not up to Coach Wells. It’s up to y’all. And if you all buy in, I promise you’ll have a great season.” Everybody bought in. We did the right things. We didn’t miss meetings. We showed up early. We were putting in extra work. Jordan was meeting us, “Hey, man. You all come to the field. I’m not asking you all to come to the field. I’m telling you all. C’mon.” He’d come pick you up. Jordan was picking me up almost every morning for meetings. Because I didn’t have a car out there, so he was going out of his way to pick me up every morning for meetings.
When was this?
Tarver: Going into that year. Summer camp. That offseason. And that offseason, we didn’t even travel home. We stayed at Utah State and worked out together. Hit the field. Ran together. We were even eating together. If I’m making breakfast, I’m making breakfast with five, six other people. That’s how close we were. If I have to go to the store to buy steak, I’ve got to buy three or four packs of steaks because there’s five or six other people in the house, too. We became a family. Even on Snapchat and iMessage, we’ve got the same group of people in there. We turned into a family. We ended up getting this ring. God will take you through hell to take you to heaven.
Is Jordan central to all of this camaraderie?
Tarver: He was one of the leaders. He was voted a captain. He knew it was his time. He sat back, let Kent do his thing, and he was just waiting for his moment. Once he got his moment, he didn’t look back.
You said you didn’t leave campus all summer into 2018?
Tarver: We didn’t go home after the spring. We stayed and we worked out. They had the weight room open so we could go in and work out. We did two-a-days. We’d throw. We’d get timing down on our routes with camp coming up. Every time Jordan has (an NFL) game close this way, he hits me up: “Hey, can you make it to the game?” On the bye week — right before Christmas when they played in Miami — we hung out. Even last year he came down. Bye week, we hung out. I was supposed to go to the Dolphins game but I had car issues. He’s my brother. I know he’s going to do his thing this year.
If you’re Green Bay, you’re seeing this every day in practice. You’re seeing it in the Philly game. You know what you have in Jordan — go all in. As one of his best friends, was it driving you nuts at times?
Tarver: Yeah, it does. But I also respect A-Rod and what he has done for the game. I’m sure Jordan does, too. Me and Jordan have had talks about that but I can’t really speak on it. He definitely respects A-Rod and he learned a lot from A-Rod. It’s coming up (in 2023) if they don’t play games with A-Rod like they’ve been doing the past couple of years. Once he got it in, the offense clicked. The young guys. Everything. Seeing them on one accord, everything was just good. That Philly game, they put up points.
To what you can speak of, how has he dealt with these last three years mentally? He’s gotten better behind the scenes. But I can’t imagine how he has kept his sanity when he’s been on the back burner this long.
Tarver: Jordan has always been the underdog. When he first got to Utah State, he had to wait. He had to wait his turn. He got to Green Bay and he waited his turn. It’s all about preparation and taking advantage of your moment. He understands that. He’s been through much worse things in life than waiting behind someone for an opportunity. Mentally, he’s there. He doesn’t let it get to him. The best quarterback I’ve ever played with. If I could go back and do it all over, I’d do it again.
I’m still active. I’m still running routes. I’m trying to get to him to at least get a chance.
Right? A workout with the Packers or something…
Tarver: I don’t think he has that say how A-Rod would.
Is there a play, a moment, a touchdown, a pass that still replays in your mind? What’s your best Jordan Love memory on the field?
Tarver: There were so many. We were throwing touchdowns back and forth. My favorite play from Jordan Love, it wasn’t even throwing me the ball. It was when he shushed and put up his finger to the BYU crowd. Because when I first met Jordan, I wouldn’t say he was “shy,” but he didn’t open up as much until he got real comfortable. I wouldn’t say I made him comfortable but the people he was around were outspoken. So he picked up on it. Once I saw him doing that, I was like, “Oh yeah. My boy turned into a dog now.” He made me proud.
It was an RPO. He kept it. And when he came through, he told the crowd to be quiet.
So, he has that in him. Maybe that’s what people don’t know. They see this quiet backup. They don’t know he has this fire. Is there Mahomesian stuff to his game? When we get to the improvisational, off-platform, holy-shit type of throws. Do you agree with Siaosi?
Tarver: If there’s anything close to Patrick Mahomes, it would be Jordan. He’s more mobile than Patrick Mahomes. The only thing that separates them is that Patrick Mahomes has a couple weapons around him and he has more experience because he’s been playing. He has more experience. But when Jordan gets comfortable — and can freelance, and stuff like that? — oh my God. Oh my God.
I wouldn’t even compare him to Mahomes. You’re going to see some Jordan Love stuff. They’re going to still talk about Mahomes, but they’ll mention Jordan as well.
What should people expect this year with Jordan Love as the starting quarterback?
Tarver: You’re going to see an explosive offense, and the Packers are going to be hard to stop on offense. I’ll tell you that.
Did it bother you when people were calling Jordan a bust?
Tarver: There will be people who lift you up and people who put you down. He’s going to prove everybody wrong. They haven’t seen anything yet.
How did we get here?
The move to Jordan Love has been three years in the making…