GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The NFL talent evaluators who set up the tests at Florida’s Pro Day on Tuesday significantly underestimated linebacker Jarrad Davis’ physical abilities.
On his first vertical jump he smacked the top of the measuring apparatus, forcing it to be raised significantly higher for future attempts.
And with a strong showing overall, Davis will hope he now has some teams also adjusting their prospect rankings so as to not underestimate him on draft day.
Davis said he hit 38.5 inches on the vertical jump, 10 feet, 9 inches on the broad jump and ran the 40-yard dash in a personal-best 4.56 seconds before the slew of NFL coaches and scouts in attendance at Florida’s indoor practice facility.
The vertical jump and broad jump marks are better than any linebacker achieved at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month, and the 40-yard dash time is second-best compared to that list.
“That was the fastest 40 I’ve ever ran in my life,” Davis said. “It just felt like game mode. I came out here and just acted like I was in The Swamp. … Coming out here and just kind of mentally mimic(king) that atmosphere, I was able to put myself in a zone that I haven’t been in in a while.”
Jarrad Davis just broke it. ? pic.twitter.com/Aar6ysDTc9
— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) March 28, 2017
Davis, often called the heart and soul of Florida’s defense by coach Jim McElwain, was hobbled by a severely sprained left ankle over the second half of his senior season. After playing through the pain to get on the field in the Gators’ Oct. 29 win over Georgia, Davis played only once more the rest of the season, trying to gut it out as long as he could in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
He says he didn’t start feeling back to himself until a week or two before the NFL Scouting Combine, and with limited opportunity for preparation he chose not to run through the gamut of physical tests there in Indianapolis. That put even more attention on his Pro Day performance Tuesday.
“I feel like it went good. I came out here with a mindset of just coming out and showing everybody that I’m still the same athlete I was before, and just showing that an ankle injury is an ankle injury and that happens — but I can bounce back every time,” he said. “I came out here today and I just wanted to show guys that I’m going to compete, I’m going to compete at the top level and I’m going to execute every time I get a chance to, and I feel like I did that.”
Davis admits he never expected the injury — which he identified as a grade-2 sprain — to keep him off the field for most of the second half of the season. While the door remained open that the linebacker could play in the team’s Outback Bowl game, Davis said he knew his ankle still wasn’t right and that he could do further damage to it by playing.
“It really upset me not to be able to play that last game with my boys, but it was something I had to do for myself at the time,” he said.
McElwain never questioned his linebacker’s toughness.
“He could have shut it down with that injury and you guys saw what he did even in that Georgia game, when he shouldn’t have been playing,” McElwain said. “That showed more to these guys about him being able to come out and play and want to play and play hurt.”
Davis doesn’t look back on the injury with regret, though. He says it showed him his resiliency.
And while he didn’t work out for scouts at the combine, he did make a positive impression nonetheless while meeting with teams there.
“I knew going into the combine guys want to know what type of person I was off the field. They see the player I am on the field, and guys, a lot of coaches and teams, they love it and that’s what they’ve been telling me,” Davis said. “For me to go into the combine, the only mindset I had was just going there and show(ing) them the young man that (my) mom and dad raised. And I went in there and did exactly that. I didn’t try to hide anything, I didn’t try to sugarcoat anything.
“I think that’s where a lot of guys mess up. They go in there and they try to put on something that they’re not. They want to see exactly who you are so they know who they’re going to pick. I mean, they’re investing millions of dollars in us to play a ballgame so I just wanted to go in and let them know, this is exactly who you have, this is exactly who you’re going to get every single day — you have nothing to worry about.”
Davis finished his collegiate career with 205 tackles and 20 tackles for loss while also displaying all the intangibles and leadership qualities that go along with excelling at that middle linebacker position.
While he felt he made a good connection in those meetings in Indianapolis, showcasing part of his overall package, he still had to prove his physical attributes Tuesday.
In the end, he says he was left with only two and a half weeks to fully train for his Pro Day, but he attacked it with a purpose, taking notice of what other linebackers did at the combine and what marks he had to hit.
Davis admitted he was surprised the testing apparatus was set so low for his first vertical jump.
“When they put it up, I kind of looked up there, and I’m like, ‘Is he going to move it up?’ So I just went for it,” he said.
Davis’ eventual 38.5-inch vertical jump Tuesday was an inch better than the top linebacker performance at the combine, where Houston’s Tyus Bowser bested that list at 37.5. If accurate, his 10’9” broad jump is also better than the top linebacker mark at the combine, which went to Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt at 1o’8”. And his 4.56 40, if indeed the consensus time the scouts had, would rank second compared to the combine linebacker list before Peppers’ 4.46.
— Gators Recruiting (@_Gators_) March 28, 2017
“I was able to set marks for myself and really push myself to train and to compete, and if I didn’t get those times I had to go back and put some more work in,” Davis said.
Neither ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. nor Todd McShay have him as a first-round pick in their latest mock drafts. On NFL.com, Bucky Brooks is the only one of four analysts/writers to have Davis going in the first round, at No. 19.
Davis says he won’t necessarily be upset if he doesn’t get selected in the first round, but he’d certainly like to be one of those first 32 names called.
Tuesday only helped that cause.
“It’s not super important, but it would definitely be a huge honor to be picked in that top 32 because those are the elite guys, the guys that come out every day and show that they love this game and they can play at the top of the top,” Davis said. “But just being picked in my mind would be an honor just because I just want to be able to continue to play this game. I love this game. It’s about the game to me. It’s not really about what (comes) with it.”