For newly signed Redskins safety Sean Davis, the opportunity to sign with Washington meant a lot more than just having the chance to play opposite Landon Collins.
Davis was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Temple Hills, Md., roughly a 20-minute drive from FedEx Field, where the Redskins play their home games. After a standout high school career at Maret School in the nation's capital, he chose to play his college ball just up the street at the University of Maryland.
So when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him with the 58th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, it was Davis' first time truly leaving the Washington, D.C. area. After four seasons with the Steelers, Davis signed a one-year deal with the Redskins this offseason, and couldn't be happier to return home.
"I'm so happy to be home, so happy to put on for my city, man," Davis told Redskins Nation on Thursday. (Watch the full interview on Redskins Nation at 5:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington).
After starting nine games for the Steelers as a rookie in 2016, Davis became a full-time starter in his second year in the league. Over the next two seasons, Davis would start 31 of a possible 32 games, playing both the free and strong safety positions. But in 2019, the final year of Davis' rookie contract, the safety suffered a shoulder injury and was placed on Injured Reserve, appearing in just one game.
For the first time in his career, Davis had to watch football from the sidelines. Although he was unable to play out his final season in Pittsburgh, Davis believes his year off will end up making him a better player in the long run.
"Last year was hard. I've been a starter forever, been on the field my whole life," Davis said. "So for the first time to be sidelined, really having no say or control, it was tough. But it challenged my mind. I became so much more mentally tough, and I think I'm much more prepared for the scary things that happen in the NFL. But it battle-hearted me, made me ready, and I'm ready to go forward this season. I'm ready to go back out on the field."
While Davis didn't have any film from 2019 to showcase to teams interested in his services, he said his free agency process went rather smoothly. Washington has a major hole to fill at the free safety position next to Collins, and Davis should be able to slide right in.
By signing a one-year deal with the Redskins, Davis has the chance to set himself up for a lucrative pay-day next offseason, should he perform to up his capability with the Burgundy and Gold. He's just 26, and has been largely durable throughout his career besides this past season.
"Everything worked out smooth with the Redskins. It was an ideal situation for me and my family," Davis said. "Having a year off, and really having a show-it year, prove-it year, what other way to do it then in front of my family and friends in my backyard? I'm really just working hard, not to prove everyone wrong, but to make everyone proud. Put smiles on people's faces. I'm really happy to be a Redskin."
In Pittsburgh, Davis played under Mike Tomlin, a defensive-minded head coach and one of the NFL's most successful coaches of recent memory. Now in Washington, the safety has an opportunity to play for another well-respected, defensive-minded head coach in Ron Rivera.
Davis has yet to meet Rivera, as the coronavirus pandemic has prohibited and impacted a lot of typical offseason activities from happening. But the safety is thrilled to learn from the new Redskins head coach.
"I know he's a great coach, I've heard so many great things about him," Davis said. "I can't wait to put on that burgundy and gold and lace-up. I'm really going to be a sponge when I get up there, taking it all in and maxing out. I'm really looking forward to meeting him."
As Davis continues to make himself at home with the Redskins, there's one big decision he'll have to make soon: what number to wear.
The safety tries to emulate his game after the late Sean Taylor, and sported Taylor's No. 21 during his final two seasons in Pittsburgh. Davis will not wear 21 in Washington, as that number has not been worn by any Redskins player since Taylor's tragic death in 2007.
"What Sean meant to me was everything," Davis said. "He taught me how to be a safety. How to roam deep, how to attack, instill fear in opposing receivers and everything. I love everything about him. It sucks that he was taken from us. I can't continue his legacy, but I'm going to play as hard as I can and play like Sean Taylor as long as I can."
Prior to wearing No. 21, Davis wore 28 his first two seasons with the Steelers. That number has not been officially retired by the Redskins, but no player has worn it since Hall of Famer Darrell Green retired in 2002.
"Numbers are important to me, so that process is going to be different," Davis said. "[No. 28], that's a great number that I probably can't wear. So going through that process is going to be difficult."
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