Through the past few NFL seasons there have been some magnificent story-lines. Whether it’s the pre-season or the playoffs, everyone loves a good football story and current Tennessee Titans’ receiver Rashard Davis has been in a number of NFL stories in his career.
In just his 3 year career, the 24 year old receiver and return specialist has made a name for himself, getting on rosters with the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans but before making his way into the NFL he had a historic career at James Madison University, an NCAA D1 AA school. When asked about his time there, “My time at JMU was a really great experience. I’d say it’s unforgettable. Going through the seasons I played there it was fun to be there, and I built a lot of relationships that I will have for my whole life.” He says, “I do wish that maybe I did more while I was there because it did fly by real fast.”
During the time he spent at JMU, Davis made sure people knew his name, being acknowledged as the CAA’s special teams player of the year in 2016 while leading his team to win the 2016 National Championship. “That season was so special. The guys on the team were awesome, I really think that that was the closest group of teammates we had there and to have the final whistle blow and the confetti shoot onto the field, it was a really humbling experience.” He commented, “Each one of use worked so hard and being able to get to that point. It’s something I wish I could relive for sure.”
Winning the CAA National Championship in 2016 will forever be one of Davis’ favorite memories as an athlete but to get to the big game he and his JMU Dukes had to fight through some serious contenders. Looking back at his time at JMU, he actually had to play against CFL stars like DeVonte Dedmon, RJ Harris, Sherrod Baltimore, Micah Wright, Christophe Mulamba, Redblacks’ newcomers David Jones and Joe Walker. When asked about these match-ups, “He (DeVonte Dedmon) was a great player and really still is. At JMU I played against him a lot, being in the same division and all we had some good battles against William & Mary. Every-time we played, he made some big plays and put his team in a position to win. With that said, now that I’ve seen more players around the NFL and at this level I think if his opportunity comes he can make his was to the NFL. He has the skill to play at this (the NFL) level and he can for sure get there in my opinion.” He separately mentions, “Even playing against RJ (Harris), he was a threat to every defense he played and in all he is a big time player and seeing what he’s done so far in Canada he could be a big name.”
Also with the Redblacks now and a player that Davis played against a number of times with JMU is receiver/quarterback Joe Walker. “So when I played against Joe, he was still a quarterback and he didn’t make his transition to receiver yet. Playing against a quarterback version of him was really entertaining. On the sidelines watching him it was like we were watching Lamar Jackson at some points of the game. If I’m not wrong, he did have a good camp with the Bears last year and I was actually surprised he didn’t make the roster because he is a hell of a player.”
Of course all that was done in his college years but since leaving James Madison, Davis has put together a solid career in the NFL. He was first signed as an un-drafted free agent in 2017 with the Philadelphia Eagles Davis says, “It was humbling to have that opportunity. It’s every kids dream growing up and to live to that was great but I realized that the opportunity wasn’t given to me right then and there so I knew I still had work to put in. I didn’t want to settle in because I know that would be a mistake. I used that first training camp to learn and work hard to get where I wanted to be and it paid off.” His hard work did pay off and he ended up making the Eagles practice roster where he would spend the 2017 season but it wasn’t the easiest transition, “I think it was in my first pre-season game with the Eagles, and I returned a punt later in the game. When I caught the ball there was these big guys running full speed at me. When I was in college I was able to run around for a little bit before the punt team came so I was a little shaken up and just had to run. It wasn’t like I was hit hard or anything but it showed me just how different the NFL is compared to College or High School.”
Making the roster with the Eagles in 2017 gave Davis a very interesting rookie season to work with, in a good way. Unfortunately he didn’t get any game action that year but he was able to be a part of a historic Super Bowl run. In the 2017 season, as many know the Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz got injured in week 14. Many would’ve thought that this would’ve been the end to the team’s playoff run, but it could’ve been just what they needed. With veteran quarterback Nick Foles the team finished the regular season 13-3 at the top of the NFC East and they were just starting their Super Bowl run. Being without their starting quarterback in the NFL playoffs made them a true underdog in every match up they were in. As the true underdog of the 2017 playoffs the Eagles made sure not to look back when they started their playoff run. Beating the Falcons in the divisional round and then the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship, the league was shook by how far they had gotten but like the first two games, they didn’t look back.
The Eagles defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to be Super Bowl champions and JMU star Rashard Davis was able to experience it all, “That year was really cool. Before getting there I heard from a few veteran guys telling me how in the NFL players play for themselves and not for the team but when that year was like the whole opposite of that. We weren’t looked at to be a really good football team or given a lot of attention so that gave us some motivation and we worked as a team to win games. We worked so much as a team it felt like a family and that really played a role in our success an helped us rally together and win some games including the Super Bowl.” Davis mentions, “It (the super bowl experience) was honestly so dope. For me, I was on the practice squad so I didn’t have to worry about playing so I wasn’t really nervous all week which helped me enjoy it more. Most of the events that week for us was at Mall of America in Minnesota so we had a lot of fun exploring that mall doing different games and media stuff. Out of all that happened that week, I thought it was cool to see the fans because it wasn’t just Eagles or Patriots fans, it was everybody and then the media side of things was cool to see how they went about doing that. Even when all of the families got there for the pre-game reception we had the Migos around. It was a lot of fun, definitely something I’d love to experience again.”
As Davis recaps his experience before the game he later goes on to reminisce how the game went. One of the biggest plays of the 2017 Super Bowl and one that is known by every football fan is the Philly Special, “We weren’t even suppose to run it that game. At practices all week, never did we run that play because we were originally going to run it against the Falcons in the Divisional round, that doesn’t happen so we practice more and plan on doing it against the Vikings but after we didn’t run it either of those games we didn’t think about it all week, we thought it wouldn’t be a good play for the big game.” But they did run it against the Patriots when the game was on the line in the Super Bowl, “It was just one of those things really. Nick (Foles) came over to Doug (Pederson) and being on the sidelines we didn’t really know what they were talking about. Then he runs onto the field and we see that he’s not lining up at QB, and that got us all excited. After he made the catch it was hype on the sidelines because it was so unexpected. I start waving my towel around over my head. It was just a now or never situation and we did it.”
The Philly Special and the rest of the game going well for the Eagles, Davis was able to call himself a Super Bowl Champion, “For me, yes we had the lead going into the last minute or so of the game but I knew the game wasn’t over yet and the whole sideline knew too. We’ve seen what Brady has done before. The game isn’t over until the clock says it is when you’re playing him so once BG (Brandon Graham) had that sack and we knocked down that last Hail Mary, that was when the celebration started. I went running on to the field, it was hype to celebrate with each other. It was hard to take it all in at once because it’s such a big accomplishment.”
The celebration at the stadium after the game was crazy as it sounds like but nothing will ever touch the craziness of the Super Bowl parade in Philly. “For one, it was cold that day. I think I wore the small long sleeve that says Super Bowl Champs but it wasn’t enough for me but I think the fans helped us out big time with that. As our parade kept going down the streets they threw beers at us like crazy so I wasn’t so cold by the end of the day. Everyone was celebrating, seeing the coaches have that much fun was really cool too but out of all of it, the city definitely had a good time.” He goes to say, “Just looking at it now, when I go into Philly now, there are parts of the city that don’t look the same. People were on trees, buildings and even on top of some light poles and all that. The fans has a party of a lifetime for sure and I’m happy to have some of it captured on my GoPro, so when times are tough I can watch that parade to relive the experience.”
Just to hear the Super Bowl stories he has from that 2017 season, its hard to top them for sure but in that same year he was able to meet his childhood idol Kobe Bryant. When they traveled to Los Angeles, Kobe being from the Philadelphia area made sure to see the team for a while. Davis relives the experience, “So when we were there to play the Rams. We were there for a week to get adapted to the time change and all and he ended up spending a day with us going to our hotel for team meetings and then he even came to see our practice. Kobe was my favorite basketball player growing up, and to meet him was really cool. He let us ask him questions, not just about his career but about life too. He didn’t treat us like the fans we are inside, he was so down to earth with all of us and he made us feel like family really. Now that he’s passed away its one of those things that I’ll cherish for my whole life.”
Seeing his two years with the Eagles, its obvious that he had a great time and learned a lot in the time there but that was just one of a few teams he’s been able to play with over the past couple of seasons. Just after his time in Philadelphia and before being signed by Tennessee he actually spent time with both the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. Out of the two, he had the longer stint with the Chiefs were he actually played in a few pre-season games. When asked about that training camp with KC he mentions, “That was a really cool experience for me. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the roster or anything like that but I was happy they brought me in. Being coached by Andy Reid and catching passes from Patrick Mahomes, being in the same locker room as Tyreek Hill those are all future hall of famers when its all said and done so I think I made the most of my time there with the Chiefs.”
After being cut by the Chiefs after the pre-season Davis was signed by the Titans midway through the 2019-20 season. With the Titans it was unsure he’d get a lot of playing time once he was signed but after a couple of weeks on the practice roster he was promoted to the active roster where he was able to get his first career catch worth 16 yards against the Texans. “When I was promoted to the active roster, it felt so good. I had that opportunity that I was working so hard for and on top of all of that I even got to catch a pass. Being on a practice squad for nearly 3 years I didn’t see much action and then to have that I was excited to have more.”
Getting more action is exactly what happened for Rashard Davis and it came in what could be one of the best playoff runs in NFL history. Its not quite as good as his run with the Eagles but the 9-7 Titans had the best storyline of the 2019 playoffs. “That playoff was special. I feel like it was almost better than the one with the Eagles because I was involved with it, actually playing in one of the games. We were without a doubt the underdogs. Nobody expected us to win a game, and putting us against Brady was awesome.” Davis comments, “Unlike the first time I played Brady in the playoffs in this game I returned a few punts and to be in that big of a game was humbling for me. It was humbling but I knew that I had to work hard that week. Now that I say that I might realize I didn’t work too hard as Derrick took most of the work.”
Like he mentions in his previous quote, Titans running back took on every defense coming his way in that playoff run, rushing for well over 400 yards in the three games. “When we watch him play in college at Alabama he was for sure a stud. Watching him in the NFL on TV he’s an absolute beast but when you see him in person and stand next to him he is a huge running back.” Davis explains, “That playoff run was awesome to be a part of. Watching the damage he did on defenses, beating the Super Bowl favorites in the Ravens. We showed just how good of a team we could be.”
That playoff run by the Titans really showed just how much of a ‘run heavy’ team that they are with Derrick Henry and given that they can gain close to 200 yards a game on the ground they don’t seem to need any big name weapons for Tannehill which means Rashard Davis has a chance to fill in at receiver. When asked about the situation he goes on to say, “I feel like every team I’ve been with so far I have had a good position with and I’ve always had room to grow into a starting role but as you look closer into it this could be the best situation of them all. We do have some ballers on the team in A.J (Brown), Corey Davis, (Adam) Humphries, Tajae (Sharpe) and Kalif (Raymond) but I do have that situation in which I can make the team which really makes me excited and I’m motivated to make the active roster so right now I’m working hard to maybe get in that position.”
All in all, Rashard Davis is a heck of a football player and has a real shot at making the 2020 Tennessee Titans active roster. With the plays he’s made in his career and the awesome moments he’s been able to experience there is no doubt that he would be a great fit on the NFL team. With the connections he has with the players mentioned on the Redblacks team you might even see him at TD Place for a game in the near future to cheer on his former college rivals.
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