Aug. 9, 2013
DAVIE, Fl. -
By Hal Habib, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Intramural field, Western Washington University. Many afternoons, you can head out there and see students playing flag football.
NFL scouts? Hey, if they're smart and they really want to cast a wide net, maybe's it's not as nutty a place to check out as you might think.
A couple of years ago, that's exactly where you would have discovered Will Davis -- the same Will Davis who these days can be found on the practice field at Dolphins training camp, no longer with those vinyl flags flapping around his hips but often with a football firmly between his gloves.
You might wonder how a cornerback goes from intramural football to third-round draft pick in the NFL and one of the bright spots in training camp. Sure, you might wonder that, and you wouldn't be alone.
Just think what the other guys from that intramural field are telling Davis nowadays.
"No freakin' way," Davis says, laughing. "I can imagine their position, saying, `I used to play intramural football with this guy and now he's in the league?' "
Davis, who eventually received a scholarship to Utah State, played flag football his sophomore year because Division II Western Washington dropped football after awarding him a scholarship and redshirting him as a freshman.
Which is merely one of many no-freakin'-way twists in his road to the NFL.
How many in the league, do you suppose, never even started playing football until their senior year of high school? How many had only one season of football on any level entering their junior year of college? Amid these questions stands Davis, 23, who grew up envisioning himself as the second coming of "The Answer," as his idol, Allen Iverson, was nicknamed.
"Allen Iverson was 6-foot and I remember praying almost every night to be 6-foot," Davis says. "I was like, `Man, if I could just be 6-foot, Lord ... ' "
Didn't happen. Davis, perhaps generously listed by the Dolphins as 5-11 and 190 pounds, embarked in football simply to fill a gap in a go-for-gusto senior year of high school in Spokane, Wash. He ran for student body president, won, and figured, "Well, shoot, I'll come and play football. My brother did it."
Fast-forward to the present, with Davis about to suit up for only his second exhibition as a pro when the Dolphins visit Jacksonville on Friday night. Inevitably these past few weeks, Davis can be seen walking off the field with a smile as bright as his diamond earrings in each lobe.
"Man, I'm really here. It's the NFL," Davis said. "You put the NFL on such a big pedestal as kids. It's like surreal to actually be here. ... I do nothing but keep smiling and keep smiling."
He does one other thing. He makes interceptions in bunches, recording multiple practices with two and even three interceptions. He ended the Dolphins' intrasquad scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium with an interception in the end zone.
"Ball hawk," defensive end Cam Wake says.
Especially considering Davis' inexperience, coaches are "very, very pleased" with his progress, says defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
"He's had some very good practices here in the last couple of weeks," Coyle says. "He's been very productive getting his hands on a number of balls. Really has very good ball skills."
Coach Joe Philbin said the No. 1 reason the Dolphins were 7-9 last year was their minus-10 giveaway/takeaway differential. The Dolphins, who made only 10 interceptions, have put a premium on creating turnovers. That could clear the way for Davis in nickel and dime coverage, since he credits his ball skills to his background as a wide receiver in football and rebounder in basketball.
"When the ball's in the air, I want to get it, high-point it," he says. "In my mind, I shouldn't drop one."
He is a rookie, so he's not perfect. On his first snap as a pro, Davis was called for pass interference in the end zone against Dallas in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game. The penalty led to a Cowboys touchdown.
"The first play, it had to come to me," he says. "You just panic a little bit." Having reviewed the play, he realizes he was in better position than he thought against Cole Beasley. "All I had to do was just turn around, the ball's right there."
If playing cornerback in the NFL proves to be that simple for Davis, he might not leave this sport with many regrets. But there is one ...
"Man," he says, laughing, "I wish we would have won the intramural championship."