GAINESVILLE, Fla. — New Florida offensive line coach Brad Davis was getting his teeth cleaned at the dentist when his phone rang with a call from Gators coach Jim McElwain.
“I was very fortunate my dentist was very understanding,” Davis quipped Thursday.
Just five months ago Davis was with the visiting team inside The Swamp as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator at North Texas, and now he’s stepping into one of the most scrutinized positions on the coaching staff of a Florida team coming off back-to-back SEC East titles.
He’s the first to admit that last Sept. 17 as he and North Texas were competing against the Gators he couldn’t have envisioned being on the other sideline the following fall, coaching at a storied SEC power. But then again, he’s never thought about such things — the career ladder, the next move, etc.
“I’ve never been one of these career-climbing guys that’s constantly trying to get to the next step,” he said while meeting with the local media for the first time. “For me I’ve let God order every step that I’ve taken. I believe in walking by faith and not by sight. So for me, my career has progressed or taken off so to speak because of the values that I embody. I believe my job as a football coach, first and foremost, is to be a servant. It’s not about me, not about my ego, not about walking around and saying ‘Hey, I’m an SEC O-line coach’. It has never been and never will be about that for me. My job is to be a servant to the players that are here right now. I’m a vehicle to their success.”
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Posted by Florida Gators Insiders on Thursday, February 16, 2017
Florida’s recent offensive line struggles have been well documented and dissected on a weekly basis by the fan base.
The position came open when former offensive line coach Mike Summers left last month for the same job at Louisville.
Prior to his one season at North Texas, Davis spent 2015 at East Carolina, 2014 at James Madison and 2009-13 at Portland State among other stops. As a player, he was a starting offensive lineman for Oklahoma and later worked as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M and North Carolina.
He takes over an offensive line at Florida that loses only one starter in left tackle David Sharpe. The Gators return a core of Martez Ivey, who is expected to move from left guard to left tackle, center T.J. McCoy, right guard Tyler Jordan, right tackle Jawaan Taylor and right guard/tackle Fred Johnson, who all started games last season.
Davis said he’s already formed a strong relationship with Ivey in particular, calling him a guy who truly loves the game and who possesses “limitless potential.” But he’ll evaluate the group as a whole throughout the spring.
“I try to come in really (with) no preconceived notions,” Davis said. “Obviously I’ve watched film of these guys from last season. The biggest thing right now for me is to get these guys to buy in to me. It’s not really what I think of them. It’s what they think of me. For me to get the best out of these guys, they’ve got to 100 percent believe in me, buy in to me and really understand what my expectations are for them. Right now, my biggest challenge has been getting as close to my players as I possibly can. So I’ve been investing time within the parameters that are allowed — texting, calling, having them come by the office, position meetings, talking to them after workouts, things of that nature. Really, really trying to get those guys to understand my passion for their success. That’s the biggest thing right now.”
Davis’ passion is palpable, even from just his quick introductory news conference. It’s easy to see him as a successful and genuine motivator.
He was frank in saying that he sees a bunch of “talented, physical, athletic football players that really haven’t maximized their potential” yet.
He says he wants to make very clear the standard for the group on the first day of spring ball, Feb. 28, and that there will be consequences for not meeting the standard. He wants the players to get the most out of their potential and he holds himself to the same standard.
“This opportunity that I have right here, there’s no leeway to come here and be average,” he said. “Coach Mac didn’t bring me here to be average, or to try to figure it out on the fly. I know what the expectations of Gators fans are. I have to be great at my job. So there’s not been a day that I’ve been here or a day that I’m going to be here that I’m going to take being here lightly. So I expect the same from my players as well.”
McElwain had made a point to say after Florida’s Outback Bowl win over Iowa that one of his primary goals for the offseason was to develop a tougher mentality up front.
He relayed that directive to Davis as well.
“I think he was just about that clear as you understood it,” Davis said.
McElwain and Davis have some mutual connections in the football world. Davis spent that one season at East Carolina working under Ruffin McNeill, who McElwain says “I’ve got as much respect for as anybody in this profession.” Davis also worked under current Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum, who was the offensive coordinator there during Davis’ time with the program and who was a scout team player at Eastern Washington when McElwain got his coaching start there.
“Brad is one of those guys as we were looking for that energy in that piece with that offensive line, he’s a name that kept coming up,” McElwain said. “… The thing that tipped it kind over there, a guy I played with, a guy I coached a little bit when I was Eastern Washington and he was at Portland State for five years. It’s interesting, as you grow up in this profession, there’s something that’s great about being at some of those places that these guys had been. ”
Jumping from North Texas to Florida is a big break in Davis’ coaching career, and that’s not lost on him.
While he admits this wasn’t anything he was expecting or thinking about last fall, or ever really, he did allow himself a quick moment Thursday to reflect on how far his career has taken him.
“I’ve been fortunate, the places I’ve gone. I’ve worked my butt off trying to do a great job and fortunately some of the people coach Mac trusts have expressed that to him as well,” he said. “So, yeah, in a million years did I expect to be here? Absolutely not. But am I fired up and thrilled? Heck yes, it’s the highlight of my coaching career. Ten years ago to the day, I was stapling papers, fixing coffee, getting cars washed, sleeping in my office, typing up scouting reports, breaking down film. So it’s amazing, it truly is.”