Jarrad Davis comes to the Jets as a middle/inside linebacker candidate who has a predilection for hard-hitting, a certain uniform number and listening to his parents. Here are six chapters from Davis' football career, from Georgia high school through his four seasons with Detroit.
Mom Knows Best
Davis' biggest fan while he was starring at Camden County (GA) High School and at the University of Florida was his mother, Amy. And that includes helping influence Jarrad in some important decisions. In high school he was a two-way player who wanted to be a running back, but his coaches wanted to move him exclusively to linebacker.
"I told him either you can make a choice to play it, or you can come home and do your chores every day," she told the Orlando Sentinel. "It didn't really make a difference to me."
Jarrad was a late bloomer who originally committed to Auburn. But the Tigers were in transition, and UF coach Will Muschamp noticed a transformation from his junior to senior seasons and put on a late surge to bring him to the Gators. At his mom's urging, Davis decided to sign with Florida.
Davis also credited his dad, John, with applying tough love when he said he needed it.
"My mom, my dad, they took care of me at a young age," he said. "I learned which way was the right way to go and I knew if I went the other way, the belt was coming. But if I went the right way, then good things are going to come. That's how I attack things in life each and every day. If I do the hard thing now, later on I'm going to reap the benefits."
What a Pro (Day)
Davis' high pain threshold enabled him to salvage his 2017 offseason and be selected in the first round of that draft by Detroit. A bad ankle injury kayoed him from the end of his senior season at Florida, the Senior Bowl and the physical testing at the NFL Combine. But in late March he participated in UF's Pro Day and wowed the league's observers.
His 4.62-second time in the 40 would have been the second-best among ILBs and fifth-best among all LBs had he run it at the combine. His 38.5" vertical jump would have led the combine's LBs and his 10'9" broad jump would've come in second.
Said ESPN's Louis Riddick after the Lions picked Davis 21st overall: "This is a phenomenal athlete who can play all three downs."
Before Dan Campbell was named Detroit's head coach in January, he was New Orleans' assistant HC and tight ends coach. And he had some keep-your-heads-up words for his unit when the Saints were preparing to play Davis and the Lions last October.
"One of the first things I circled was, man, if we're running inside zone and we're running our 42 ace, our lead draw, and you're leading on No. 40 [Davis], man, you'd better fricking be ready for him to drop his hat and hit you right under the chin," Campbell said at the time on the Stoney and Jansen with Heather Show on WXYT-FM. "He will literally split your chin open and knock your hat off."
Not surprising perhaps, the hard-hitting Davis was reported to list among his influences another impactful MLB in Ray Lewis.
"I love hitting," Davis said on mlive.com. "I love striking people. I love exerting force on another person. You can't do it any other way. You can't do it on the street, you can't do it at anybody's house. You have to do it within the lines, within the paint."
We haven't found a story explaining why yet, but one of Davis' favorite numbers is 40. In a rare trifecta, he's worn that same number on his uniform not only in his four seasons with the Lions but also in his four seasons at Florida and on back into high school at Camden.
Davis even beat back the challenge to that number from LSU LB Devin White without even lifting a finger. Before the 2019 draft, White was asked about Davis should he get drafted by the Lions.
"I watched him a lot in college. Man, I was a big fan," White said at the combine of Davis. "Hey, if they want to get me, I'm willing to go and I'm willing to put the work in. But he's going to have to give me that number."
But Tampa Bay intervened, taking White fifth overall, three rungs ahead of the Lions at No. 8.
Next up for Davis: Second-year CB Javelin Guidry, who currently wears No. 40 on the Jets.
Lion in Wait
With Detroit, Davis was known for his high character, hard work and vicious hitting. While his playing time was reduced last season, which led to career-low numbers, he was the Lions' defensive captain for the third consecutive season.
He has 305 career tackles, with a pair of 12-tackle games in his first two seasons. And while not a big sacker (10.5 for his career), he has one two-sack game, which was also a three-QB-hit game, on San Fran QB Jimmy Garoppolo in 2018.
It's conceivable that he was being observed in that game by Robert Saleh, then the 49ers' defensive coordinator and now the Jets head coach who may have offered his two cents about what he knew of Davis before GM Joe Douglas made him an offer to join the Green & White.