After the draft, former Georgia Tech linebacker P.J. Davis had an opportunity Saturday to go to the Falcons’ rookie minicamp. But he went with what appears a better opportunity with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Falcons did not offer Davis a contract as an undrafted free agent after he was not selected in this weekend’s NFL draft. Rather, they wanted him to come to their rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, Davis said, meaning that he would have to impress the team’s decision makers enough to actually earn a spot on the roster.
Also, the Falcons wanted him to work out as a fullback, a position that the team’s contingent, including coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, had him try at Tech’s pro day in March.
The Jaguars, meawhile, were among teams offering him a contract as an undrafted free agent as a linebacker.
Davis said he appreciated the Falcons’ offer, “but a free-agent deal is better than an invite to minicamp.” Further, he said, he wanted to play linebacker, where he led the Yellow Jackets in tackles for two of the past three years.
In a process that sounds not unlike college recruitment, Jacksonville had been making an impression on him, he said.
“They’ve been calling me the past two weeks,” he told the AJC. “They’ve been showing me a lot of interest.”
The Jaguars evidently anticipated that Davis would not go drafted, as they could have saved themselves a lot of phone calls by simply drafting him. Davis himself wasn’t surprised he didn’t get selected.
“I kind of had an idea,” he said. “I knew I probably would have been at least a late-round pick. It didn’t come as a surprise (to go undrafted). I was already prepared for that.”
Another plus for Jacksonville – it’s only about two hours from his hometown of Cairo in south Georgia.
“Jacksonville felt like a great fit,” he said. “It’s close to home, close to my family.”
He has familiarity with the city of Jacksonville, Fla., and the Jaguars’ EverBank Field. Tech finished its 2016 season there, and Davis triggered the Jackets’ TaxSlayer Bowl win over Kentucky by returning a fumble 38 yards for the game-opening score.
“I know that (stadium) well, especially with that scoop-and-score down there,” he said. “Just trying to go down there and build off of that.”
Jacksonville drafted one linebacker (Blair Brown from Ohio in the fifth round). Davis is one of two linebackers whose UDFA signings have been reported. Perhaps his best shot at a roster spot is through special-teams play. Whatever the route, the odds are against him. It’s familiar territory.
At 5-foot-9, Davis was a two-star prospect coming out of Cairo High. But he made an immediate impression in his first preseason camp, played as a first-year freshman and became a three-year starter. His mother nicknamed him “Seabiscuit,” a most fitting nickname for a true underdog.
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I’m used to this. I’ve been here before. This isn’t anything new.”
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