Hun­gry kid im­presses Charg­ers’ tastemak­ers

Rookie de­fen­sive back Michael Davis was un­drafted but not un­no­ticed by coaches.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Dan Woike

The white food tent near the perime­ter of the Charg­ers’ prac­tice field in San Diego would se­duce the nostrils and, in turn, the stom­achs of the team’s play­ers.

And after a morn­ing work­out un­der the Cal­i­for­nia sun, its pow­ers would only grow stronger.

But while most of his team­mates had ex­ited the field ear­lier this month after one of the Charg­ers’ last or­ga­nized work­outs of the off­sea­son, un­drafted rookie de­fen­sive back Michael Davis fought off the temp­ta­tion to re­place the calo­ries he’d burned be­tween the lines.

Davis and a few team­mates wanted ex­tra work, pol­ish­ing up tech­nique and try­ing to get a bet­ter grasp of the sys­tem. With no guar­an­tees that he’ll have a job this

fall, ev­ery mo­ment counts.

“My mom just told me to come here ev­ery day and try hard, and any­thing can hap­pen,” Davis said.

Injuries hap­pened. Op­por­tu­ni­ties hap­pened. Reps with the first string hap­pened.

It’s how play­ers such as Davis end up catch­ing a coach’s eye.

After not hear­ing his name called dur­ing the seven-round NFL draft, Davis agreed to a free-agent deal with the Charg­ers in April, putting an end to a tor­tur­ous few days.

While grad­u­a­tion from Brigham Young helped dis­tract him dur­ing the early rounds, word trick­led in from teams that his wait could be end­ing soon.

“Teams were calling me telling me, ‘Michael, you need to stay by the phone. Be next to the phone. Your time is com­ing up,’ ” he said. “As ev­ery round passed by and it got to the sev­enth round, my name still hadn’t been called.”

Con­sid­er­ing his se­nior sea­son at BYU, the si­lence made sense.

Davis lost play­ing time to younger de­fen­sive backs, lead­ing to post­ings on BYU mes­sage boards won­der­ing “what’s the deal?” Peo­ple won­dered if maybe it was be­cause of injuries. Or maybe it was a lack of ball skills — he only had one ca­reer in­ter­cep­tion — or sus­pect tack­ling.

On-field strug­gles for Davis, who was an all-area re­ceiver and track star at Glendale High, didn’t change some ob­vi­ous truths. He was still blaz­ingly fast, and that can’t be taught. He was still tall, 6 feet 2, and that can’t be taught ei­ther.

He ran 40 yards in un­der 4.40 sec­onds at his pro day in Provo, Utah, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal pa­pers, giv­ing him some hope his phone would ring. And, after seven rounds in the draft, it fi­nally did.

The Charg­ers, who had brought Davis to San Diego for a visit with coach An­thony Lynn and other staffers, wanted to of­fer him a deal to bring him to train­ing camp.

“Let’s make this hap­pen,” Davis thought.

It didn’t take Davis long to get no­ticed by his new coaches. Early in the team’s off­sea­son sched­ule, Lynn sin­gled out Davis as a pleas­ant sur­prise. De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley, who has tra­di­tion­ally cov­eted cor­ner­backs with size and speed, also no­ticed those at­tributes.

“I think there’s a cou­ple of things. One, he’s got length. That helps. And then he’s very fast. He’s got re­ally good speed,” Bradley said. “Those two traits — ob­vi­ously, there’s oth­ers — but those two traits for him stand out. And he uti­lizes his length.”

Davis was able to work his way into reps with the first string, thanks to the ab­sences of Casey Hay­ward (an­kle) and Jason Ver­rett (knee). He worked on the out­side in three-cor­ner­back sit­u­a­tions.

“I’ve been given the op­por­tu­nity,” he said. “Now, I just have to seize it and play. You can’t worry about the out­side. You can’t worry about get­ting beat, over­think­ing things.” The re­sults were mixed. “He’s done good; a lit­tle bit in­con­sis­tent,” Bradley said. “You see re­ally good flashes, and then the next day he might get hum­bled a lit­tle bit. And then, the next day, he comes back. So the in­con­sis­tency . . . . But as coaches, this time of the year you’re look­ing for skill sets, and those flashes. Let’s build on that.

“I think train­ing camp will be big, just to see how far he comes with it.”

Mak­ing an NFL ros­ter as an un­drafted free agent is not an im­pos­si­bil­ity. Be­fore the 2016 sea­son, there were more un­drafted play­ers on NFL teams than ones who were picked in the first and sec­ond rounds.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties, un­de­ni­able phys­i­cal traits, sys­tem fits, and ul­ti­mately ta­lent can work in a rookie’s fa­vor, and Davis has po­si­tioned him­self to stay on the field longer than maybe even he ex­pected.

“First com­ing here, I didn’t re­ally think I had [a chance] to be run­ning with the [first string] be­cause we have so many cor­ners and some vets,” Davis said. “But I just put my head down and worked hard, and I guess it showed. “

‘Teams were calling me telling me [to] be next to the phone. Your time is com­ing up. As ev­ery round passed by . . . my name still hadn’t been called.’ — Michael Davis, on go­ing un­drafted

K.C. Al­fred San Diego Union-Tribune

FOR­MER BYU de­fen­sive back Michael Davis agreed to a free-agent deal with the Charg­ers in April and made a strong im­pres­sion on new coach An­thony Lynn and his staff dur­ing off­sea­son work­outs in San Diego, above.

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