Sternberger was designated to return from IR on Nov. 2 but played sparingly during his first month back. In practice, however, the rookie began to impress the coaching staff with the plays he was routinely making on the scout team.
The reps rose near the end of the season and Sternberger made them count. He played a career-high 28 snaps against Seattle in the divisional playoff and caught two passes for 13 yards and a touchdown in 11 snaps against San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.
His 8-yard TD in the fourth quarter came off a scramble play in which he broke free from acclaimed 49ers linebacker Fred Warner prior to quarterback Aaron Rodgers finding the rookie in the back of the end zone.
Veteran Marcedes Lewis saw a night-and-day difference in Sternberger after his midseason return, with the rookie’s play down the stretch reflecting how far he’s come.
“Jace, as far as mentally, he took a big step,” Lewis said. “Early on, when he got in here, he just didn’t really know. He didn’t understand. Then, he got injured and his head was out of it for a little bit. But getting back in and taking the bull by the horns, he really honed his craft and figured out what his role is and what it’s going to be on this team.”
Sternberger was a consensus All-American in his lone season at Texas A&M, catching 48 passes for 832 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns in 13 games.
His one season in College Station, partnered with an all-around solid showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, were enough to make Sternberger the 75th player taken in this past year’s NFL Draft, the highest the Packers have drafted a tight end since they selected Bubba Franks 14th overall in 2000.