May 3, 2017
Lions tap into more character
with first-round pick Davis
By KEITH GAVE
Jarrad Davis stayed home. Though universally projected as a first-round pick in the NFL draft, and widely predicted to wind up playing linebacker for the Detroit Lions, Davis shrugged off the pomp and circumstance going on in Philadelphia – the red carpet, the TV cameras, posing with the commish and all that silliness.
No, Davis stayed home with his family in Kingsland, Georgia, because, damn it, the NFL draft has always been about football and family, not him. So when league Commissioner Roger Goodell called his name as the 21st selection, the newest Detroit Lion Davis was watching on the TV in the living room, surrounded by the people who most helped that dream come true even as it was unfolding.
In his first teleconference with reporters, after he was drafted, someone asked Davis why he felt compelled to stay home.
“It honestly just goes back to everything that I experienced as a kid, everybody who put in any amount of effort to kind of mold me into the young man I am today, you know?” he said. “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. Not only the moment but just the effort that they put into me.
“A lot of kids don’t have people that take the time out of their day to come in and make sure that they’re doing their homework or make sure that they’re doing the right things with their friends, or make sure that they’re doing the right things within the game that they play, you know? I’ve had a lot of people in my life really just reach out and help me in numerous ways. It’s paid off. It’s paid extreme dividends.”
And he made sure to share that moment, away from the glare of the TV lights and the fawning national media who make heroes out of these kids before they ever play a down in the NFL.
For my money, Davis is already more than deserving of our respect and admiration than most of those posers in Philadelphia. I mean, how can we not like this kid already – and root for him to make the kind of impact the Lions are hoping he will?
He reminds me of when the Lions took another linebacker, hoping for the same thing, and Chris Spielman – taken in the second round, 29th overall, in the 1988 draft out of Ohio State – turned out to be everything they had hoped for and then some. That came at a time when the Lions had an annoying tradition of lowballing their top draft picks to the point that they often missed their first training camps with the team.
Fans of a certain age may recall how Spielman reacted to that, saying something like: “I didn’t come this far to be a contract holdout. I’m here to play football.”
And man, did Spielman play football, eh? He led the team in tackles in his rookie season – and for six more straight seasons. He holds the team record for tackles to this day, 1,138 (a statistic that the league began tracking in 1973. He played in four Pro Bowls.
So the Lions filled a big need with middle linebacker they desperately needed. But as much as we’re taken by our first impression of Davis as a person, we can only guess at whether Davis, the player, will live up to the promise and hype that precedes him.
We can only hope, which is why assigning letter grades to a team’s draft is a ludicrous process at best. Especially when the same people who give the Lions a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ (as most did with their report-card grades) are the first to tell us that it takes a good three years to properly judge a particular draft class.
All we can say for sure is that the Lions took steps to improve their defense by taking two linebackers and two cornerbacks and two defensive ends in their nine picks over seven rounds. They also took a wide receiver, a tight end, and quarterback to add some depth to the offense.
And all I’d prefer to offer is that after General Manager Bob Quinn’s first successful draft a year ago – when nine of his 10 picks made significant contributions to a team that made the playoffs – he deserves the benefit of our doubt in this second draft.
Like in his first draft, Quinn appears to have leaned toward players of high character in trying to fill his team’s needs. In other words, he’s stocking his team with people who are easy to cheer for, unlike so many Lions teams under previous administrations.
Which leads us back to Davis, talking about his own character that scouts raved about as much as his dynamic and explosive prowess on the football field.
“You have to be built on something. . . not only as a player but as a person,” he said. “You have to understand that football is only part of the day. You have a whole other life outside of the game to live. 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.
“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.”
Close your eyes, and you can hear Chris Spielman’s voice in those words.
The Detroit Lions got a good football player in Jarrad Davis – and a better person.