Robert Davis has been in the NFL for three years and has one catch.
He’s not technically on an NFL roster right now, he doesn’t know where he’ll be next year, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever play again.
And he couldn’t be happier.
Davis has a lot to be thankful for as he celebrates his first Thanksgiving as a member of the Eagles’ practice squad.
Here’s a guy who caught seven passes in his entire high school career. Who didn’t get a scholarship offer until a college scout saw him playing basketball. Who worked his way into the Redskins’ rotation last summer before suffering a ghastly injury — a torn ACL and broken leg — at training camp. Who’s already been cut three times and won’t turn 25 until April.
It hasn’t been an easy road for Davis, but he’s one of the most upbeat, positive guys you’ll ever see.
It’s already carried him a long way. And who knows where it'll take him next.
'That was my only offer'
Davis played football at Northside High School in Warner Robins, Georgia, also the hometown of one-time Eagles first-round pick Ben Smith.
As legend has it, he caught only 11 passes in his entire career playing for the Northside Eagles.
“Every year it seems like one catch gets added onto it,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve heard 11, but it was actually only seven.”
We ran the triple-option, so we didn’t really throw the ball but maybe three or four times a game. My job was really to block a lot, but we won a lot of games. When you’re in high school, especially my mindset, I just wanted to win games. Eventually, when I started thinking about college and stuff like that, I did want to get a couple more catches so college scouts would see me, but it worked out for itself. I was able to show athleticism in the little stuff I did.
But it wasn’t until the 6-foot-3 Davis was playing basketball that a college scout actually spotted him.
Turns out then-Georgia State head coach Trent Miles — who was with the Eagles in 2017 and 2018 as an offensive assistant — was visiting Northside to recruit a linebacker, Trey Payne, and Northside coach Kevin Kinsler gave Miles a heads up about Davis.
He was like, ‘Yeah, we have a guy who can really play, we just don’t get him the ball in our offense, but he has a basketball game today if you want to go check him out.’ So it happened to be a game where I went for 25 points, a couple slam dunks, some blocked shots, and they offered me off that. That was my only offer. That’s one thing to be thankful for. I’m thankful to Trent Miles for giving me a look and a chance to play football.
'I could barely walk'
Georgia State is located in Atlanta, about an hour and a half north of Warner Robins, and Davis had a fantastic college career for the Panthers, breaking just about every school record, including most career catches (222) and yards (3,391) — second-most in Sun Belt Conference history, behind T.Y. Hilton.
The Redskins drafted him in the sixth round in 2017, and although he was briefly on the 53, he played in only one game and didn’t get a snap on offense.
Back for his second season, Davis was enjoying a very good training camp last summer and competing for a starting job when he crumpled to the ground at practice with torn ligaments and a fractured tibia in his right leg.
It was tough because I worked my whole rookie year, came back my second year, was playing my best football, played against the Patriots, started that game and had one of my best games, so to get hurt the next day in practice was pretty frustrating. But that’s the game. You move on.
After spending a week in a wheelchair and a few months on crutches, Davis was back for the start of camp this past summer and opened the preseason with a bang — a 46-yard TD from Case Keenum against the Browns and a 55-yarder from Dwayne Haskins against the Bengals.
But he wound up back on the practice squad again and after a brief stint on the 53, when he caught his first — and only — career pass, he was released again.
This time he signed with the Eagles, joining the practice squad last month.
You’re always thankful for opportunities. Last year at this time I could barely walk. So just to be on my own two feet is a great feeling, no matter where I am. But to be part of a winning organization like this? That’s really a plus. It’s been a journey, but it’s one that I’m thankful for.
'He's a freak of nature'
Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld was with Davis in Washington during 2017 training camp and was thrilled when he heard the Eagles signed him.
He’s a freak of nature,” Sudfeld said. “He’s got muscles on top of muscles. Definitely looks the part of a big, freak wide receiver, and he plays big. He’s got speed, really good at running routes, he’s smart. He’s got a bright future, definitely. Coming off a serious injury, the way he’s come back and looked as good as he has? So impressive. I think it’s really good for him to get in the system where he can learn, but I think he can really be a good player in this league for a long time. Really glad he’s here.
Players on a practices squad are technically free agents, free to sign with any team whenever they want. So Davis could be gone tomorrow.
But considering that major changes are likely here at the wide receiver position, there’s certainly a chance the Eagles will want to keep Davis beyond this season if he’s still available and see what he can do with a full offseason and training camp.
It’s human nature to think about [the future]. Everybody wants to have success in this sport. I have dreams of being a Philadelphia Eagle, being a contributor, being a starter one day, that’s what I work for. So I work hard every day, try to be my best at practice, treat practice like game day. Just to have this opportunity to elevate to the next level is a blessing in itself.
'I have a lot to be thankful for'
Practice squad players earn $8,000 per week, which is good money but only a fraction of what even the lowest-paid guys on the 53-man roster earn.
So Davis is biding his time, working as hard as he can and hoping for the same opportunity that guys like Boston Scott, Alex Singleton, Craig James, Greg Ward, Bruce Hector, Ryan Lewis and Alex Ellis have all gotten. Just this year, they’ve all signed from the practice squad onto the Eagles' 53.
I have a ton of respect for guys who go on the practice squad and earn their way,” Sudfeld said. “I’m proud I was on the practice squad and had to fight and earn my way onto a roster and it did a lot of good. As Stout (Jeff Stoutland) always says, ‘A hungry dog runs faster.’ When you feel like you don’t have it quite in your grasp you definitely don’t take it for granted and you want to keep pushing and improving and working on your craft. And Rob’s really done that. He’s really determined coming off that injury, really focused every day. I’m very proud of Rob and excited for his future.
Davis will spend a quiet Thanksgiving with his girlfriend at his apartment in Philadelphia and be back on the practice field Friday.
He said he doesn’t really worry about the future.
I’m a firm believer in God, and I believe God has put me in a situation to set myself up for the future, so I’m thankful for that. As far as everything else, it'll happen when it's meant to happen. But just being here and being able to play the game I love? I have a lot to be thankful for.
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