Small-School Rusher Intrigues Packers
Ryan Davis (Steve Mitchell/USP)
Ryan Davis (Steve Mitchell/USP)
Posted Apr 9, 2012

The Packers grabbed Nick Collins from Bethune-Cookman ... might they go back for Ryan Davis? Davis finished among the nation's leaders in sacks, tackles for losses and forced fumbles. He talked to Packer Report about his path to the NFL and what he likes about Clay Matthews.

Ryan Davis is used to changes of plans.

Davis, a two-sport standout at Howard W. Blake High School in Tampa, Fla., was on the recruiting radars of all sorts of major Division I football programs until his test scores weren’t up to par.

So, Davis landed at Bethune-Cookman, where he would play wide receiver after being a standout high school tight end. However, after redshirting in 2007, Davis was moved to defensive end during spring drills in 2008.

“I didn't really like it at first,” Davis told Packer Report. “I wanted to catch touchdowns. I was looking at Calvin Johnson and I was like, ‘I want to be like that guy right there and catch touchdowns and jump over people and catch the ball.’ I didn’t like it at first, but once I found out how good it felt to overpower an offensive lineman, I stayed with it and it’s paid off.”

It’s about to pay off, with the NFL draft less than three weeks away.

“Sacks,” Davis said with a laugh when asked what he likes best, sacks or touchdowns. “Sacks.”

A three-year starter, Davis (6-2 1/2, 259) capped his career by being named an All-American, the MEAC’s Defensive Player of the Year and the FCS National Defensive Lineman of the Year by the Football Performance Awards. Along with 12 sacks (10th in FCS) and 21.5 tackles for losses (seventh in FCS), Davis led FCS with eight forced fumbles.

A source said the Packers are intrigued at the small-school defender, who impressed at a pair of pro day workouts. Davis was invited to Miami’s pro day, where he outperformed the Hurricanes’ touted Olivier Vernon who, like Davis, played defensive end in college but is seen as a possible outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Davis trimmed his 40-yard time to 4.75 seconds at Bethune-Cookman’s pro day a couple weeks ago.

At both pro days, Davis looked perfectly capable of going from hand-on-the-ground end to standup linebacker.

“We take the drills from the Combine and pro days and we work them out and we drill them every day,” Davis said. “That’s why I feel good about (potentially playing linebacker) because I can do them. I’m fluid and athletic enough with my hips to do it.”

“We were a 4-3 team,” Davis continued, “but a lot of times on days we didn’t have practice, I’d go out there with the DBs and just play around with it and run with the receivers and get my hips right. I dropped (into coverage) throughout my career, so it’s not like it’s new to me.”

Davis, who had 6.5 sacks as a junior after a coaching change gave him a shot of confidence, added a sack in the Battle of Florida All-Star Game in January.

“A little bit of everything,” Davis said of his pass-rushing bag of tricks. “I read my opponent and focus on what their weakness is and try to key on it. If he can’t handle the bull rush, I’m going to bull rush him and get rid of him. If he can’t handle the spin move, I’m going to spin off of him a couple times. If he can’t handle speed, I’m going to blow right by him.”

Davis likes to watch the game’s top pass rushers, including Clay Matthews, Von Miller, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

“Oh, man, his intensity is always up,” Davis said of Matthews. “I’ve never seen him take a play off. When the team needs a play, he makes a play. I remember the game last year against the Giants, he got an interception and returned it for a touchdown. In the Super Bowl, he made a big-time play. That’s what I love about Clay Matthews. He’s always in the right spot at the right time. His pass rush is relentless.”

The past two changes of plans have turned out great for Davis. There won’t be any changes of plans this time. He’s considered a Day 3 prospect, and even if he isn’t selected, Davis figures to be a hot commodity on the undrafted market.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” Davis said. “A lot of people have asked me that but I don’t know how it feels yet because I’m still grinding, I’m still here. I guess we’ll see in the near future. I’m waiting on it.”

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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