Thursday, April 22, 2010
Sizing up Davis for the first round
By Andrew Marchand
His name might be one of the top 10 called by the commissioner Thursday night, but there was a time when Anthony Davis couldn't find his way onto a Pop Warner team.
Davis is the 20-year-old, 6-foot-6, 325-pound offensive tackle from Rutgers, who, like nearly all potential first-rounders, is a physical phenomenon. The one difference is that Davis has played football for only six years, because growing up in Piscataway no one would let him on their team.
At 11, he tried to sign up for the 11-year-old league. They said he was too big. So he tried to play with the 12-year-olds. Too big, he was told. How about the 13-year-olds? Too big. 14? Too big.
It left the 11-year-old Davis feeling, well, a little small.
"I was confused," Davis said. "I didn't know what was going on. They didn't want the little people to get hurt. I thought this game was for big people."
Of course, it is. On draft day it's about the biggest and the fastest. Davis finally fits in. He has the size and agility that could make someone look very smart 15 years from now.
"He's the most athletic big man that I've ever been around," said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who has spent nearly a quarter-century coaching football, including stops at the University of Miami and in the NFL with the Bears. "He's an incredible physical specimen."
To Schiano, the best example of Davis' athleticism doesn't come from a football field, a weight room or a track, it is from Schiano's driveway.
At a team get-together at the coach's house, Davis picked up a basketball and looked as if he were a jumbo jet taking off from Newark.
"He takes a basketball from just over the free throw line, a la Michael Jordan, and extend dunks it," Schiano said.
From just over the free throw line? He dunked it?
"I was shocked," Schiano said of Davis, who received basketball letters from Marquette and Arkansas, among others. "There is no 325-pound man on the planet who can do that."
So what is the knock on Davis? After leaving following his junior season, he may be the youngest player in the NFL next season. So his maturity is something teams are trying to judge and accusations have been thrown at him.
In the Internet era, trying to ferret out the truth about draft-day rumors is difficult, because a rumor can speed across the web in seconds before the truth even has a chance to think about getting dressed.
There was talk Davis skipped his pro day, which wouldn't be an advisable move for anyone, let alone a potential first-rounder. Davis' camp and Davis himself say that could not be any further from the truth. Davis, they say, had a terrible stomach virus and couldn't work out.
"It was a miscommunication," Davis said.
Schiano said that a pro personnel man in the league told him -- regardless of the reason -- he was disappointed Davis didn't participate. Later, according to Schiano, the same personnel man said he felt satisfied after attending Davis' private workout.
Schiano added the NFL is about one thing -- winning the Super Bowl -- and he thinks questions about Davis' work ethic will be answered as a pro. Schiano said that Davis has been questioned to a certain extent because of the discipline he faced in the Rutgers program. Schiano said he kept Davis out of the first quarter of the Army game because Davis showed up 20 minutes late for a team function. The fact that Davis arrived at training camp a few pounds overweight was a function of an eye injury. Schiano points out that Davis got down to his playing weight quickly.
Davis, for his part, is definitely saying the right things. He says he loves to watch tape of the Seahawks' Walter Jones and the Jets' D'Brickashaw Ferguson, trying to emulate the way they bend their knees and their balance.
"I'm willing to learn," Davis said. "I'm a student of the game."
Some draft boards have him going as early as No. 9 to Buffalo. Others have him dropping as far as 27 to Dallas.
In some ways, Thursday will be a flashback to nearly a decade ago for Davis. He is again trying to get in a league. However this time, it is the bigger, the better.
Andrew Marchand writes for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.