Every young player spends their nights dreaming of seeing their name on the back of an NFL jersey, and that is just as true for the Washington Football Team's newest addition to its linebacker corps, Jamin Davis.
It was a bit of an emotional day, admitted the No. 19 overall pick, as he toured Inova Sports Performance Center for the first time and saw the number that he would be wearing. But that feeling, as fulfilling as it was, was overcome by a stronger sentiment: this is just the start of Davis' professional career.
"This is just Day 1 of a long journey for me," Davis told reporters after the start of Washington's rookie minicamp. "I just really had to get rolling."
Davis will continue his journey this week with Washington kicking off OTAs on May 25. Between getting to know his new teammates and adjusting to the exponentially increased speed of the professional game, there has been a lot for the rookie to take in over the past month. Plenty of expectations have been heaped on Davis' shoulders over the past month, but his plan for carrying the weight is the same as what enticed Washington to draft him in the first place.
"I'm just going to go out there and be the best version of myself that I can...and take everything as it comes my way," Davis said.
With Friday being the first time that Davis took the field in the NFL, it was understandable that he said he woke up that morning feeling jittery. But after all the excitement that filled the previous two weeks, it felt good to Davis for him to be back on a practice field, and that allowed him to settle in and feel more like himself.
"It was almost like a sigh of relief when I finally got all that extra outside noise out of the way," Davis said.
Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew believe Davis has the athletic ability to compete at all three linebacker positions, but there were some growing pains that came with the first days. Most of them were a result of adjusting to smaller details; at Kentucky, for example, it was easier for Davis to jump routes, but now he has to be more careful about that with offenses operating at a much quicker pace.
Although Davis got more comfortable with each rep, there were naturally moments when the rookie had questions. Rivera's advice for that is simple: "if you don't know, ask." It is a suggestion Davis will undoubtedly follow in the days to come, especially since he has already been developing a rapport with linebackers coach Steve Russ.
"He brings energy every day. He helps me understand it if I have a question," Davis said. "There's no such thing as a dumb question. I feel like he'll be a great guy to help me take this next thing to the next level."
Fortunately, the team should not be too concerned with Davis' ability to learn on the fly, based on how he performed in his only season as a starter with the Wildcats. He was one of four players in the SEC to average 10 tackles per game and the only player in the FBS with at least 100 tackles and three interceptions.
"[Davis has] All the physical attributes you want, had great production last year," Mayhew said. "He checks that box and then he checks the box of being a great football character guy. He fits us, he fits what we're trying to do and he fits our culture."
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio compared the NFL Draft to Christmas with each of Washington's 10 picks being a present that offers something different to the roster. In Davis, Del Rio now has a linebacker with some traits like a 4.47 40-yard dash that he did not have to work with before, allowing him to be more active in coverage. Needless to say, Davis was high on Del Rio's wish list.
"He's got all the length and speed and athleticism that you want in a player, and he's a great young man, so we're happy," Del Rio told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "We think he's a good fit here. ...The sky's the limit for him."
There is also Davis' motto -- "You can't have a $1 million dream with a minimum wage work ethic" -- to consider. It was something that Davis was told as a kid, and as a self-described underrated player growing up, the philosophy stuck. It resulted in Davis playing with a chip on his shoulder during every game last season, and don't expect that outlook to change now that he's a first-round pick.
"I just knew that if I was putting in the work behind the scenes and just doing whatever I needed to do no matter what...I would never be denied," Davis told Donaldson.
Rivera and Mayhew drafted Davis because he fits exactly what Washington wants to build. While being the right person to continue the culture is always a key for Rivera, having position flexibility as well as the intelligence and athletic ability to go along with it are equally important. There will be more growing pains for Davis throughout OTAs, training camp and the season itself, but Davis has the right mentality to overcome them.
Davis will be surrounded by players like Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Cole Holcomb and several others who have the same approach of giving maximum effort to improve their skillset. As long as he follows their advice, he should be able to take everything in stride.
"Just come in and hit the ground running," Davis said.