The Wes Welker comparison was bound to come for Jordan Davis.
The Texas Tech sophomore inside receiver stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 174 pounds, with the same curly locks that Welker sported during his career in Lubbock. So it wasn’t a surprise when coach Tommy Tuberville evoked the name of the former Red Raider great when he was asked to describe Davis last week.
“That’s definitely a guy that I look up to,” said Davis, a walk-on who redshirted last season after transferring from Southwestern Oklahoma State. “Those Danny Amendola, Wes Welker-type guys, they’re just quick, reliable guys, so that’s nice to hear.”
But Davis has heard a different comparison in practice lately.
That was the shout from fellow receiver Javon Bell and others after a deft catch from Davis on Monday morning, a reference to former Philadelphia Eagles backup receiver and special teams player Vince Papale, who was the subject of the 2006 film “Invincible.”
Davis doesn’t have a bartender-to-hometown-NFL-hero story like Papale, but coaches and teammates have been impressed with the similar work ethic and toughness Davis has displayed.
Tuberville said he asked his son Tucker, a freshman quarterback, who stood out to him during voluntary summer workouts, and Davis’ name was the first to pop up.
“He said, ‘You’re going to have a tough time keeping Jordan off the field,’” Tommy Tuberville said, recalling the conversation with his son. “He catches it. He’s physical. He’s gained a lot of weight. The thing about it is, when you get out here and your quarterbacks know you’re going to catch it when they throw it, who are you going to throw it to?
“You’ve got to earn that reputation, especially as an inside receiver. It means in practice you catch the ball.”
Davis didn’t even start playing receiver until his senior year at Arlington High. He was a cornerback as a sophomore, then played safety his final two seasons. He chose Southwestern Oklahoma State because it was the only school that gave him the chance to play offense.
“I had always wanted to play receiver,” Davis said. “I knew that would be my best bet in college, but our offense (at Arlington) was so good. I would have started (on offense), but they didn’t need me. They needed me on defense because our defense wasn’t very good, so I kind of had to quarterback the defense.”
After catching 20 passes for 225 yards as a freshman in 2010, Davis sent his game tape to the Tech coaching staff. The coaches liked what they saw, but could offer Davis a position as only a preferred walk-on.
Like many players in those shoes, Davis has an uphill battle in front of him to find consistent reps. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said on Saturday that he wants a five-player rotation to start the season at the slot positions. The candidates include Austin Zouzalik, speedy redshirt freshmen Jakeem Grant and Javares McRoy, as well as Alex Torres, Tyson Williams and receiver/tight end hybrid Jace Amaro.
Even with such a crowded group, Brown said Davis has given himself a chance to compete for playing time.
“He’s winning a lot of his one-on-one matchups, and he’s getting bigger,” Brown said. “He’s definitely improved through the first five practices. He’s very smart, knows how to get open and he has a great initial burst and really good hands.”
Davis said he doesn’t pay too much attention to where he’s slotted on an ever-evolving depth chart, focusing instead on making the most of every chance he’s given.
Sort of like that Papale character.
“You can’t let it get to your head too much,” Davis said. “You can’t really go wrong if you’re just playing hard. If you play hard, then good things are going to happen. If things don’t go your way, you have to get over it and tell yourself you have to step up the next time.”
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