The preparation for the 70th annual Senior Bowl has officially begun with Monday evening’s introductory press conference. Executive director Jim Nagy, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock and Auburn inside linebacker Deshaun Davis took the podium and blew away the spectators, each for separate reasons. While Nagy showed incredible transparency when asked about the ins and outs of the Senior Bowl and Lock showed an immense amount of poise and charm fielding questions, it was Davis who really got down to business.
It seems hard to believe that after a season in which the Auburn linebacker recorded 112 tackles and received first team honors on the AP All-SEC team, that Davis would have to sit at the podium and answer questions on if his game translated to the NFL level. Davis did not wait for those in attendance to set their targets on him, instead when asked what he had to prove this week down in Mobile, he cut straight to the point and addressed the elephant in the room.
“They know I can stop the run, they know I’m a good leader, they know I play with a lot of passion. By being an in the box linebacker, they don’t know how well I can play in space. I was primarily a run stopping linebacker so I know it’s going to be a question mark. I feel like this week is going to be big for me to prove that,” says Davis.
That question mark has followed the linebacker around throughout his career. At one point, his ability to play in space even made his inclusion in the Senior Bowl a question mark.
Fourteen other linebackers received and accepted their Senior Bowl invites before Davis had even received his. Even Nagy had his initial doubts, telling AL.com in early December that “(Davis) is a really good player. I’ve said it before: He doesn’t fit the prototype. Just being honest. The league is a going to look at him. He’s going to be undersized. He’s going to be all the stuff the league doesn’t want. But, at the end of the day, he’s a really good football player. And, I’ve tried to make that point.”
Nagy left the door open for Davis’ inclusion and shortly after a spot opened up for him. The Auburn linebacker’s acceptance was documented and was as feel good of a moment as they come.
A little over six weeks ago, Davis pondered his future. He had all the numbers and leadership traits that NFL teams were looking for but he still sat without an invite to the Senior Bowl. Now six weeks later, he sits at the podium as one of Nagy’s handpicked players to speak on opening day.
Tomorrow his six-week journey will officially come to an end as Davis will finally get a chance to hit the field and prove the doubters wrong. Whether it be his 5’11 frame or his ability in space, Davis is not worried about what his measurables or anything else out of his control may say about him. His sole focus is going out there and doing what he always does.
“I feel like my film is pretty good. I started in the SEC for three years. I tell people all the time, if you put 6’2 on paper, 6’2 can’t run out there and make a tackle. So, no matter what I measure, I know my game, I know what I can do for a team. I’m not really worried about it. Whoever takes me, takes me. I’m going to do my best to be the best linebacker I can be.”
The Senior Bowl hits close to home for Davis who grew up in Prichard, Alabama. The linebacker’s story has the potential for a true storybook ending as Davis will not only have the chance to prove that he can be a three down linebacker but he will also have to chance to do it in his home state.
“The city has been showing me a lot of love, a lot of support ever since I’ve been in college. So, to finish my college career off where it all started in a sense, playing at Ladds Stadium, in front of the people I grew up with. It’s going to be fun.”