Wildcat Jarrad Davis drafted to NFL

Jarrad Davis is ready to roar.

The Detroit Lions have a new pride of fans in Camden County after making the former Wildcat linebacker the 21st overall selection April 27 at the NFL Draft in Philadelphia. For a franchise seeking to build on a nine-win playoff season, Davis’ brand of consistency, versatility, athleticism and passion for football was a perfect fit.

The first Florida Gator linebacker chosen in the first round since 1991, Davis wasn't in Philadelphia, choosing instead to stay around home and be with family and friends at an Amelia Island celebration. He ironically described NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's draft announcement as “indescribable,” made significantly more meaningful by the company with whom Davis was sharing it.

“Everybody who put in any amount of effort to kind of mold me into the young man I am today, you know, I wanted to celebrate that moment for me, but also for them to just show exactly what they did for me and how precious that was to me,” he said at his introductory press conference last Friday in Allen Park, Mich.

The Lions believe Davis — a sturdy 6-foot-1 and 238 pounds, according to an NFL.com draft profile — can solidify a position of need and provide long-term leadership. They project him as a sideline-to-sideline, every-down force. 

Head coach Jim Caldwell introduced the first-round pick at the media session, also attended by Davis’ mother and father, Amy and John.

“He’s a studious individual, really trying to perfect his craft at all times and he plays that way and it shows,” Caldwell said. “The way in which he certainly gets a tip on things that he sees, he reads and reacts extremely well … It’s rare to see a guy with his size and bulk that can move like he moves.”

The scouting process, according to executive vice president and general manager Bob Quinn, was very comprehensive, dating to last spring. Character was a key part of the evaluation.

“It’s a player we targeted and it’s a player that we wanted and we were fortunate to get him,” he said. 

Wherever he is playing, Davis feels he is always representing Camden County. Giving less than 100 percent isn't an option. Detroit fans, he said, should expect a “very hard worker, somebody who has a relentless approach to the game.”

“I’m not a guy who’s going to come in and try to steal the spotlight,” he said. “I’m a guy who’s going to come in and fit the mold and work with the program and make sure that I also push everybody else.”

Former CCHS head coach Jeff Herron used a basketball comparison to describe Davis’ value to the Wildcats.

“Jarrad, first and foremost, is a great young man,” said Herron, now coaching at T.L. Hanna High in Anderson, S.C. “His work habits are off the charts … He's kind of like Michael Jordan: he made everyone around him better.”

Originally an Auburn commitment, Davis took that mentality and perspective to Florida and became a respected leader there, too.

He produced 98 stops ― 11 for loss ― as a junior and added 60 more tackles as a senior despite missing four games with an ankle sprain. He sat out the NFL Combine in early March but his workout had scouts buzzing at the Gators’ pro day March 28. 

What sets Davis apart, according to Cedric Corse, his linebackers coach with the ‘Cats, is what he does to improve when no one is around. 

“How good are you when nobody's watching?” he said. “Accountability is very high with him. He's going to work hard and he's going to work hard when nobody is watching.”

Corse recalled a 2012 game at Valdosta, in which Davis had 15 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble return for a touchdown. Camden turned the catfight between traditional powerhouses into a 43-6 mismatch. Overall at CCHS, Davis posted 114 tackles as a senior, 61 with 16 for loss as a junior.

“He's always going to do what he's coached to do,” Corse said. “He's going to do everything at a high-motor level.”

For Welton Coffey, the Wildcat head coach the last four seasons and previously an assistant, when an athlete reaches the highest level of sport, the achievement speaks volumes about not only the athlete but also the family. Davis’ presence, he said, was always felt on the field, in the weight room and in the community.

“He has always been who he appears to be: competitive and businesslike, and makes other people better,” Coffey said.

Brian Crum — himself a former standout Gator defender — saw the desire in Davis when the future Lion was an elementary school student and had Crum’s mother as his teacher. That drive only escalated, as Davis later shined with the Wildcats and in the rugged SEC.

“His attitude, that’s what makes him who he is,” said Crum, a football assistant at Camden Middle, where Davis also attended. 

Detroit opens the preseason Aug. 13 at Indianapolis and the regular season Sept. 10 at home against Arizona.

Keenly aware of his golden opportunity, Davis understands football is only part of a player's responsibilities, and that there is another arena off the field which can be just as defining. As players and people, he said, “you have to be built on something.” 

“If you can’t control yourself, if you can’t take care of business in that time, then you’re only going to be a football player for so long,” he said last Friday. “I love this game so much, so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that I’m playing this game for as long as I want to play.”

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