Georgia’s Jordan Davis brings big personality to a big game

November 6, 2021 Athens - Georgia's defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) celebrates after he brought down Missouri's wide receiver Dominic Lovett in the second half during a NCAA football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, November 6, 2021. Georgia won 43-6 over Missouri. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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November 6, 2021 Athens - Georgia's defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) celebrates after he brought down Missouri's wide receiver Dominic Lovett in the second half during a NCAA football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, November 6, 2021. Georgia won 43-6 over Missouri. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

No one has wrung more from Georgia’s top-shelf season than Jordan Davis, the Bulldogs’ Alp with feet.

Just this weekend, his holiness Nick Saban went on a rhapsodic riff about the man in the middle of Georgia’s defensive line, anointing Davis, “one of the most dominant players in college football.”

“If he thinks like that, I’m honored and I’m glad,” Davis said Monday. “But you can’t let it get to your head.” The Bulldogs’ largest player hasn’t the ego to match. Another reason an interior lineman – the least glamorous and statistically rewarding position on the defense – has become the popular human trademark of the nation’s top-ranked college football team.

Saban’s compliment landed shortly after Davis had pronounced himself too big to be confined to just one side of the ball, running it in from a yard out for a touchdown against Charleston Southern. You just gotta have a yard, he’s your man – there at the bottom of the Bulldogs’ rushing stats you’ll find the 340-pounder with two carries for two yards. Whether Alabama need be concerned about this plus-sized rushing threat during Saturday’s SEC Championship game, “I can’t really say,” Davis coyly put it.

“But if I get the rock, I’ll try to make something shake.” Most likely the foundation of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Davis would conclude his Senior Day vs. Charleston Southern by leading the marching band in a rendition of “Glory, Glory.” If you spot him grooming Uga or taking one of the majorettes’ batons out for a quick twirl in advance of the big SEC game Saturday, don’t be surprised. He seems intent upon visiting every facet of Bulldog life before departing.

Davis has approached this thus-far unbeaten season with the joy and curiosity of someone who expected none of it. When he was spotted at a Braves game this season, recognized, and received like visiting royalty, it amazed Davis. To him, it’s as if Georgia’s rampage through the conference and his own spiking popularity is one big surprise party. So why not glory in every moment?

It’s when asked why he is so committed to never getting cheated on any of this season’s experiences that Davis so nicely sums up his outlook:

“Every day I lead my best life, doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I’m just happy to be here. There’s not a lot of people in this position, and I’m not supposed to be here. Got to show gratitude and appreciate the little moments from waking up to coming here working – even being in front of you guys (the media). It’s an honor, no matter what. Every time I put my feet on the ground it’s a blessing.”

Not supposed to be here? Seriously? There seems to be no one more meant to be a part of this defense-driven team than Davis. He is nothing less than an anchor point. A weight-bearing beam.

Yet, he insists, “Life carries different paths, and I never expected my path to take me here. Every time I’m grateful for it. It almost brings me to tears. I’m not supposed to be here, but I’m here and I’m forever grateful.”

Such is the approach of a reformed overweight couch spud and deluded basketball wannabe who had to be practically towed onto the football field as a high schooler in North Carolina. First steps were torture for Davis. As a freshman, he reportedly used to hide in a bathroom stall to try to avoid working out with his high school team. And even after gaining some prep props, his initiation at Georgia hardly was seamless. He was some 40 pounds heavier then, struggling to keep up with the demands. As he once told ESPN, “I was so ready to go back home. I was like, ‘Man, I can’t do this anymore.’”

Yet through the prodding of teammates and his own day-to-day resolve, the 6-foot-6 Davis began growing into his potential. By late in his freshman season, he had his first start. First an intermittent presence, he gradually became recognized as a larger-than-life figure even in a game filled with mesomorphs. Sloppy fat became more usefully proportioned width. His combination of heft and nimbleness sets him apart, the kind of rare skill set that has made Davis an Outland Trophy finalist even with the modest stat line (24 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, 2 sacks) and the confinement to the role of early-down specialist.

Even Saturday against Alabama, the defending champion and the once standard for all things defense, Davis figures to physically stand above everyone else on that field. You can’t help but watch him, drawing all eyes to a position that traditionally goes unnoticed and unloved.

Working against an offensive line that gave up seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss to Auburn last week, Davis is far more charitable than most when assessing the impending match-up.

“Alabama’s always been known for physical toughness, and they have a great offensive line,” he said. “They have a great size, great motor. I just feel like it’s going to be a tremendous challenge to play against them. They’re big. We’re big.”

No one is bigger than he. And he draws praise to scale. In its entirety, Saban’s recent review of Davis’ work was a veritable ode.

“I think the guy is one of the most dominant players in college football,” the Alabama head coach said. “Any defensive lineman, I guess you can look at a lot of things, but the No. 1 thing is how hard are they to block? And he’s really hard to block. He’s got great size. He’s very powerful, but he’s got really good initial quickness – short-area quickness – and can push the pocket and pass rush.

“He’s about as good a player as I’ve seen for a long time as an inside player on any college football team.”

Name: Jordan X. Davis. The X is for Xavier.

Image: That of a flesh-and-blood avalanche, so much mass moving with such shocking quickness. Against Clemson, that translated into two tackles for a loss and a sack. Against Alabama-Birmingham, that produced the highlight of the interior lineman running cross-field and running down quarterback Tyler Johnson at the sideline.

Likeness: Yeah, everybody likes Davis. How can you not?

Have no doubt, Davis is supposed to be here. Right in the middle of all good things about this Georgia season.

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