Most coaches want to create a positive buzz around their rookie class, and few are as enthusiastic about their players (or just in general) as New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. While it would be easy to dismiss Ryan's hype comparing third-round pick Demario Davis to Ray Lewis or Bart Scott, it's much more difficult to brush aside unprompted praise from the best player on the Jets, Darrelle Revis.
Brian Costello of the New York Post reports that when Revis was asked who had stood out as a leader during spring practices, his answer was Davis. After an incredulous voice prompted Revis to clarify his statement, the all-world cornerback said Davis was vocal, and even though he has a lot to learn, his leadership qualities and "where he came from" were both very apparent.
Other than Arkansas State, where does Davis "come from?" Like the most famous Jets offseason addition, Tim Tebow, Davis is a devout and public Christian. That faith is part of the foundation of leadership Davis provided for his college team.
Ben Shpigel of The New York Times wrote a great piece on Davis' extraordinary ability to lead. In it, his college linebackers coach, Tom Allen, calls Davis the "emotional, physical and spiritual leader" of Arkansas State during his time there. He is given credit for leading the team's turnaround, at least partially due to his endless work ethic, which the Jets also noticed.
Ryan said Davis is the first to arrive and last to leave the practice field. According to Ryan, Davis also "can't wait" to do just about everything that's part of a football player's day. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said "you would never think" Davis is a rookie because he's always studying and working at the team facility on the days off, including constant interaction with linebackers coach Bob Sutton "mastering it."
The Jets probably can't wait to see what Davis can do for their defense, either. He has been running with the first-team sub-packages, and Pettine has moved him all over the defense. ESPN New York beat writer Rich Cimini noticed this during the team's minicamp, writing that Davis was sacking Tebow "one minute" and dropping into coverage "the next minute."
Bart Scott is hanging on because his $4.2 million salary is guaranteed and the Jets could find no takers in the trade market earlier this year. However, it won't be surprising when Davis overtakes him, in part because of his maturity and leadership. The truest sign that Davis is a born leader? This is what he said the week after the draft, according to Shpigel:
“You have to know how to follow before you can lead. Right now, I’m in a following mode.”