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The Determination and Drive of Jamin Davis

By BJ Bennett
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Davis has always believed in both his goals and the passion that helps him reach them.

I had always played with a chip on my shoulder my entire life. I was always one of the kids that was just completely overlooked.
~Jamin Davis

When Jamin Davis became the recent first round pick of the Washington Football Team, selected 19th overall, he did so with a special appreciation for all that it took to get there. Hard work, persistence and a trust in himself and those around him helped the former Kentucky star emerge as one of the top defensive prospects in the entire NFL Draft. Many saw Davis seemingly rising up big boards quite suddenly; it was the same tried and true process that helped Davis get there.

Before Washington, the draft or even Kentucky, determination has long been his destination. 

The springboard, for Davis, was a remarkable junior season at Kentucky. He, athletic and instinctive, ranked third in the SEC with 102 total tackles, led all league linebackers with three interceptions, one of which he returned 85 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee, recorded four tackles for loss and even a blocked kick. A standout season followed by a pro day that saw Davis, at 6'3'', 234 pounds, run a 4.37 forty yard dash, leap 42 inches and broad jump eleven feet had his stock soaring as the draft approached. 

When Davis got the call from Washington making him a first round pick, his emotions, literally and figuratively, echoed through the room.

"Honestly, it was a surreal feeling, seeing the way that everything has shaped up for me, my entire process getting to this point. It just felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders," he recalled. "Being that I was sitting there with my family, that was always who I wanted to make proud. When I got that actual call it was a dream come true."

Relatively lightly recruited out of Long County High School in Ludowici in coastal Georgia, Davis, a noted racing fan, has often had to go the extra mile for his opportunities. Even now, right after he was selected as one of the first defensive players in the 2021 NFL Draft, Davis still feels like there is more to do. It's a mindset that goes all of the way back to the beginning, one that drives Davis as his career has progressed. Lessons Davis was taught at a young age continue to key his current successes.

Reserved but also relentless, Davis has always believed in both his goals and the passion that helps him reach them.   

"I had always played with a chip on my shoulder my entire life. I was always one of the kids that was just completely overlooked. I always just stayed true to myself like I always say and just stayed humble," Davis shared. "Just trusted the process honestly, knowing that, even though it started out extremely slow for me with recruiting, it was going to eventually pick up if I just trusted my work and just knew that, eventually, if I worked towards whatever I wanted to get that it would happen for me."

That commitment ultimately came with an All-American spotlight at Kentucky. Year to year, Davis' tackle production tripled in each of his three seasons in Lexington. As a junior, he was undoubtedly one of college football's top defensive playmakers. Davis burst onto the national scene when the Wildcats, in consecutive weeks in mid-October, held Mississippi State to just two points, then Tennessee to only seven; in those two contests, he recorded 23 total tackles and two interceptions, an 85-yard pick-six included.

In some ways, it's work simply watching Davis play. He is so active, as an every down, sideline-to-sideline defender who even contributes on special teams, that his production and his persistence stand out alike. It's not just a reflection of how Davis plays, rather who he is as well. 

"Honestly, that is just something I always took pride in. Just always knowing that you never know when your last snap may be," he explained. "Just taking every rep I can seriously and just playing at 100 miles per hour. That is something I always took pride in because you never know when it can be taken from you."

Going 23-13 in three years at Kentucky, Davis and the Wildcats challenged and changed the status quo and did so in the toughest conference in the country. He was a big reason why.

Davis, while at Kentucky, went 3-0 in bowl games, never lost to rival Louisville and was part of the Wildcats' first win over Florida in over three decades. It was a historic stretch. After earning a late offer from Kentucky, Davis later helped make sure the Wildcats followed his lead; Davis, with a history of finishing strong, won three straight games to end his freshman year, four straight to close out his sophomore season and two in a row as a junior to complete his college career.

Kentucky was an important time for Davis and not just because of the wins. He looks forward with all of his past experiences close in the rear-view, time with the Wildcats obviously very much included.

"I definitely take an extreme amount of pride when it comes to playing for Kentucky. It was just something that, when I first got there, we always were overlooked or 'oh, that's a basketball school'," Davis noted. "Just buying into what Coach Stoops and the staff was telling me. Knowing that I was stepping into that locker room and be immediately accepted because it was just a band of a brotherhood, I just really want to be apart of everything that I had seen and then follow the line of a lot of great linebackers that came through there."

In his last game at Kentucky, the Tax Slayer Bowl against North Carolina State played in Jacksonville just a few hours from where he is from, Davis came through with a fitting grand finale. His late fourth quarter interception essentially clinched the win for Wildcats. Davis' pick with just over three minutes remaining turned into a 26-yard touchdown run by Chris Rodriquez on the very next play. In final contest with Kentucky, Davis had a team-high 13 total tackles, a half sack and a turnover that was one of the signature plays of the game.   

The highlight was an especially-meaningful one for Davis.

"It was definitely an amazing feeling, especially being that we had an extremely adverse season, being that we lost Coach Schlarman and then my friend Chris Oates had went down medically. It just was a lot going on," he reflected. "It was just a great way to capitalize the season and my career, knowing that I pretty much left my mark. I didn't really know exactly what the future held for me at that time, but just looking back on it it definitely was a blessing, humbling experience for me to just go out and end everything the way that it did."

The next level awaits as yet another chance for Davis to make the most of. Looking at his track record, expect Davis to do just that. This is a player who sees former Kentucky superstar and current Jaguars Pro Bowler Josh Allen as a mentor, Colts All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard as a model and sees himself as a versatile defender who is ready to do whatever his coaches ask. Getting drafted, for Davis, wasn't as much the end of one phase or the start of another, just a continuation of the same approach and perspective.

Davis is set to be an important player on a talented Washington defense. Now that introductions have been made, he is eager to step on the field  with his new team. 

"It was pretty cool. Honestly, just getting a chance to be out there and finally getting a chance to meet the coaching staff," Davis nodded. "It was a pretty cool experience overall and, like I had been saying, my main focus was just to figure out how soon I could get to work and stick my nose into the playbook. Honestly just settle down and get right back to work."

It goes without saying that the last few weeks for Davis have been a rush; Joe Gibbs style, even. As Davis makes plans for Washington, there will be a proverbial pit stop somewhere along the way. Draft day was extraordinary for Davis, with so many people reaching out. Among them were some of the biggest names from not only one but two of his favorite sports: football and racing. A big Jimmie Johnson fan, Davis even received an invitation from the star driver, with a trip to an upcoming race now in the works.

Just has football has always been there for Davis, racing has, too.

*When I first really just started picking up a football, probably like around the age of six or seven, I was always a big fan of racing: moto GP, formula 1, NASCAR, a little bit or everything. I can remember religiously watching the races with my younger brother and older sister. I just fell in love with watching Jimmie Johnson and then next thing I know he is a seven-time champion, so...," Davis smiled.

News of Davis' love for racing quickly made the rounds. It's already been a full-circle experience, an oval to be exact, for a player whose new team won three Super Bowls under a coach who is now a five-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion. Serendipitously, Gibbs is in the Pro Football and NASCAR Halls of Fame. The beginning to Davis' NFL career has gotten off to a fast start; call it a green flag before he ever sees a yellow one. Davis, appreciative and excited, is enjoying the ride.  

"It definitely was a dream come true. Honestly, it was so much going on around me. Guys like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. calling my cell phone and stuff like that," Davis shared. "Honestly, it was just really a dream come true, just making it to where I could get a whole bunch of different doors opened up for me."

Through all of the excitement, Davis remains focused on all that lies ahead, his potential impact included. Davis, already, is counting down the days until he can suit up and take the field in the NFL. This is an opportunity he has worked tirelessly for and one many people told him he wouldn't ever get. Great pride has followed Davis to the pros; pride in representing his family and friends, his hometown, all of the 912, Kentucky and now Washington. That momentum helps Davis move forward.        

"Definitely a quote I always say is 'you can't have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic'. It's a lot of behind the scenes that comes with stuff like this. Just never let somebody tell you that you can't do something," he concluded. "Ironically, you just have to block out the outside noise, keep the faith, trust the work and eventually everything will work out the way you want it to."

Davis is coming to Washington as a heralded first round pick. He is also coming with more to prove and a history of doing just that.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports