Leading up to the 2020 Kentucky football season, linebacker Jamin Davis was seen as nothing more than a role player, a complementary piece to the team’s key starters in Chris Oats and DeAndre Square.
When Oats tragically suffered a stroke last May, Davis’ role unexpectedly leaped from backup to starter at the MIKE position whether he was ready or not.
And fortunately for the Wildcats, not only did Davis meet expectations, he far exceeded them. On the year, the junior linebacker finished with a team-high 102 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, two pass deflections, one defensive touchdown and one forced fumble. This comes after combining for just 42 total tackles in his first two seasons at Kentucky.
Maybe the most impressive part of Davis’ breakout junior campaign? The pre-draft process.
In a feature released by Bruce Feldman of The Athletic on Thursday, the UK staff told the veteran reporter that even after Kentucky’s season ended, NFL teams did not tell the standout linebacker to leave school and enter the draft one year early. In fact, Davis’ early draft grades peaked at fourth-round status this winter.
“All of this is even more remarkable considering that when Davis heard back from the NFL advisory committee about whether he should enter this year’s NFL Draft, he got back a “fourth or fifth round” draft grade, he says,” Feldman wrote. “He decided he was going to jump into the draft anyway.
“Honestly, it came down to the simple fact of me taking a bet on myself,” Davis told The Athletic this week.”
Back in February, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah sat down and took a closer look at Davis’ tape, a film session that immediately pushed the former NFL scout to include the former Wildcat in a list of top 50 draft prospect he had just filed. He listed Davis at No. 35 overall, easily the highest ranking of any major outlet since the college football season came to a close.
From there, national analysts and outlets have been including Davis in their latest mock drafts left and right, almost exclusively keeping the former Wildcat in the first and second rounds.
And then on March 31, that draft buzz skyrocketed once again at Kentucky’s Pro Day when Davis clocked a 4.37-second 40-yard dash to go with a 42-inch vertical and an 11-0 broad jump. Now, you’re hard pressed to find any major outlet listing the standout linebacker outside of the first round, with many pushing Davis all the way up to top-15 status.
Oddly enough, Davis knew exactly what was coming in the weeks leading up to Pro Day.
“Two weeks before Kentucky’s pro day,” Feldman wrote, “an excited Davis called (Jon) Sumrall and said, “Coach, I’m gonna surprise some people in a couple weeks.” Sumrall knew plenty about how gifted Davis was. “Yeah, I think you’re gonna do really well too,” Sumrall replied.
‘“No, coach I’m gonna kill it,” Davis said. “I’m gonna run (a) 4.48 or better. I’m gonna jump 40-plus on my vert and I’m gonna broad-jump 11.”
‘“To hear him say it with confidence, he was calling his shot,” said Sumrall. “He’s grown into that from a confidence standpoint because his physical traits have always been there but he really found himself from a football standpoint in the last year and a half and really grown.”
“And of course, Davis did all of this.
‘“Honestly, this is a dream come true,” he said. “But, I’m just getting started.”’
When he initially declared for the draft, scouts didn’t even think twice about the Kentucky linebacker as a serious day one or two draft selection. Now, there’s serious talk of Davis coming off the board as the top linebacker in the entire draft.
Needless to say, the former Wildcat made the right decision by betting on himself.
For the entire feature on Davis featuring more quotes and analysis, head on over to The Athletic here.