Washington Football

Utah State DB finds his way with No. 18 Aggies

Utah State DB finds his way with No. 18 Aggies

LOGAN, Utah (AP) Three years ago, Will Davis was content to be playing flag football at Western Washington, gunning for an intramural championship. He had tuition money in hand, good buddies at his side and time to figure out life.

Now the charismatic 22-year-old has his sights set on the NFL after a record-setting senior season for No. 18 Utah State that culminates with Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Toledo (9-3).

``This is beyond my dreams,'' said Davis, part of a defense that helped the Aggies win the Western Athletic Conference title and a school-record 10 games.

Like the Aggies, who have won six straight, Davis is on a roll.

The 6-foot, 186-pound cornerback has had an interception in five straight games to earn first-team All-WAC honors. He also has been invited to play in the Senior Bowl in January.

Not bad for a guy who has played only four years of organized football and found himself emailing practically every coach in the nation two years ago trying to secure a Division I scholarship.

When he finally signed on the dotted line for Utah State's Gary Andersen, the JC-transfer didn't exactly wow. He started last season as a backup and was in danger of being cut from the traveling squad.

``That kind of woke him up,'' said position coach Kendrick Shaver. ``He started taking advantage of the reps he was getting in practice and letting his talent shine.''

That he has done, and he shines in other ways, too.

Davis has 900-plus Twitter followers, and isn't shy about interacting with all. He's the same way off the field - approachable and real. Shaver teasingly calls him a politician because he won't take a seat in meetings until he has shaken every teammate's hand and asked about their day.

``I love Willie Davis, the kid on the field, going around having a blast,'' Davis said. ``But I'd rather be known as Will Davis. I don't want people to be shy around me. I'm not some big-time (athlete).''

But he has made some big-time plays, three in particular that affected the careers of opposing quarterbacks.

The first actually didn't help Utah State, as his deflection of a Riley Nelson pass still ended up in the hands of a secondary BYU receiver in last year's last-second loss to the Cougars. It helped solidify Nelson's job as BYU quarterback and hastened the transfer of once highly touted recruit Jake Heaps to Kansas.

In September, a blitzing Davis supplied the hit that would end the career of Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, who retired after learning he would need a fourth shoulder operation.

Last month, it was Davis who halted Colby Cameron's NCAA-record streak of 444 consecutive passes without an interception when he picked off one in the end zone, helping the Aggies pull off the 48-41 upset victory over Louisiana Tech that propelled them into The Associated Press rankings for the first time since 1961.

``We ran that route five to six times in practice, so everything looked right,'' Davis said. ``I went with my gut and pulled the trigger ... jumped the route.''

Shaver said it's those instincts and ability to absorb information quickly that make Davis special.

``He blossomed when he was able to understand that people are going to catch a football on him and it's not the end of the world,'' Andersen said.

Davis should have known that already from his own upbringing.

His dad, now a pastor, was a good athlete in his own right but grew up in Los Angeles and has two bullet wounds as reminders of his early life in the gangs.

``He didn't want that for us, so he moved us to Washington, good old Spokane, and honestly I'm glad we made the move. Spokane raised me,'' Davis said.

As a senior, another event changed his life when he and his then-girlfriend found out they were going to be parents.

``I remember going to one of my teachers in tears thinking, `What did I do, what's happening?' You make decisions in life and have got to live with them,'' he said. ``My teachers told me, `Honestly, if this is the worst thing that happens in life, you're going to have a great life.'''

Davis began looking at the positives several months in, even picturing the little Jordan pink slippers he'd get when he found out their baby was a girl.

His daughter arrived on Aug. 3, 2008, but died later the same day because her rib cage never developed, and thus her lungs couldn't expand so she could breathe.

He'd get to hold her before she died, calling the moments he had with her ``priceless.''

He has a copy of her tiny hand print tattooed on his upper left arm, and remains friends with the mother and her family, whom he said will be at Saturday's bowl game in Boise.

It will be his final as an Aggie, other than the Senior Bowl, where he can only hope to follow in the footsteps of linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Wagner was a relative unknown going against players from big-time programs, but earned most valuable player honors for the North squad last year and now is a starting linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks.

Andersen predicts Davis will be drafted in a fairly high round next spring, but like everyone else trying to make that jump, faces a tremendous challenge.

Davis' first challenge, though, will be a high-powered Toledo offense led by quarterback Terrance Owens. Toledo enters the game ranked 28th in the nation in total offense. Owens can throw deep and has a pair of talented receivers in Bernard Reedy (82 catches, 1,051 yards) and 6-foot-4 freshman Alonzo Russell (54 catches, 925 yards).

Davis' Twitter followers are asking him if he'll get another interception.

``There are high expectations, but that's what you want, `` Davis said, shaking his head at the thought he almost settled for intramural flag football after Western Washington cut its Division II program. ``You want that on you.''

Quick Links

Redspears or not these uniform designs are a great option for Washington

Redspears or not these uniform designs are a great option for Washington

When looking at the endless amounts of fan concepts and designs out there for the Washington Football Team's next name and logo, it's important to remember that not every idea belongs to the name suggestion of the designer. 

Once Washington makes its final decision, you can bet they'll be looking at a number of different options, and if they want to take a look at the fans' work, they could take a Red Wolves logo and match it up with a Red Tails uniform concept and tweak both to match whatever name they choose. 

In that case, whatever name and logo they choose should have these uniforms, plain and simple. 

 

Mike Joseph created these uniforms as part of his Washington Redspears project and did an exceptional job mocking up a number of different modern uniform designs.

RELATED: DEL RIO EXPLAINS WHY HE'S SO ACTIVE ON TWITTER

Redspears isn't a likely name change due to reports saying the franchise plans to stay away from Native American imagery, but that doesn't mean we should ignore these designs.

 

These use the burgundy and gold really well and have a unique number font that has worked for NFL teams like the Ravens, Broncos, Bears, Titans and Steelers in the past. 

The great part about this design is it could be easily rebranded to a different. All the franchise would have to do is lose the spear logo and use whatever logo they settle upon. They could even keep the numbers on the helmet as they have currently. Everything else is versatile. 

Between the sleek design, use of colors and the unique number fonts, this has to be one of, if not the best fan-generated uniform mock-up out there. If the Washington Football team uses these but with a different team name and logo, it'd be hard to complain about that decision. 

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the team with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL NEWS:

Quick Links

Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

There were already some decent expectations placed on Antonio Gandy-Golden for 2020 — and then Kelvin Harmon went down. Now, the Day 3 selection is being labeled as someone who needs to really contribute to the Washington Football Team.

But is that too much to ask for a rookie who went on Saturday in the draft? Recent numbers indicate that answer may be yes.

From 2015 to 2019, 25 wide receivers were chosen in the fourth round, which is where Washington nabbed Gandy-Golden a few months ago. Here are some takeaways from looking back on how all of those guys performed in their first professional seasons:

  • Only one target topped 50 catches and 600 yards, and coincidentally enough, it was Jamison Crowder. Crowder caught 59 passes for 604 yards and two scores as a rookie for the Burgundy and Gold in 2015. The only other guy who came close to either of those marks was Antonio Callaway, who had 43 grabs for 586 yards and five touchdowns for Cleveland in 2018. Those are easily the two best performances by a fourth-round rookie wideout since 2015, so keep that in mind when discussing Gandy-Golden.
  • Out of that group of 25, 15 suited up for double-digit games for their teams during their first taste of the league. The average stat line for those 15 rookies was 17 receptions for 182 yards and one touchdown in about 14 contests. That's meager. 
  • Just nine out of the 25 recorded a touchdown catch as a rookie, and only four (Crowder, Callaway, DaeSean Hamilton and Malcom Mitchell) visited the end zone multiple times.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

So, judging solely off of that data, it would appear that Washington shouldn't be prepared to lean heavily Gandy-Golden. And once you combine that history with other factors, such as the huge transition he's about to make from Libery to the NFL and the very limited offseason he's had thus far, then the outlook for Gandy-Golden becomes even dimmer.

There is a super simple counter argument, however, at least when it comes to comparing him to his past fourth-round peers, and it has to do with his potential playing time.

While the 22-year-old has to fight through a pandemic, something none of the above rookies can relate to and something that could be detrimental to his early career, he also may be in line for a massive share of snaps right away. Most players who go off the board where Gandy-Golden did are usually worried about simply making the team; he, on the other hand, very well could be a starter across from Terry McLaurin in Week 1.

That alone means Gandy-Golden could end up having enough involvement in the offense to come up with a Crowder-like, impactful debut. In 2019, McLaurin far surpassed other third-round rookie receivers due largely to the amount of opportunity he got with Washington (his ridiculous talent was a bonus of course, too). Gandy-Golden is tracking on a similar path. 

A fairly general rule for any franchise is that it's not exactly prudent to need a Day 3 pass catcher to immediately act as one of your primary weapons. Stats from 2015 to 2019 seem to back up that general rule.

Every rule has an exception here or there, though. Maybe Gandy-Golden, with his outstanding physical traits and possibly featured role in 2020, will be that next exception and make all this math and comparing a totally moot issue. 

Stay connected to the team with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL NEWS: