The first time Will Davis ever played organized football was in his senior year of high school. The first college football program he went to was discontinued.
But the 23-year-old persevered, and his once-distant hopes of playing in the NFL are now just a few months from being realized.
The Utah State standout cornerback was selected 93rd overall in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins traded a fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round pick to Green Bay get into the third round to pick Davis before the end of the draft’s second day.
“When they made their last pick in the third, I was like, ‘Well, I guess it’s looking like tomorrow,’ and I was just sitting and waiting with the [family], but it was still kind of disappointing,” Davis told MiamiDolphins.com. “And then for me to get the call and them to come right back in — man, I’ll tell you what: I’m ear-to-ear smiling right now.”
The Salt Lake Tribune could not immediately reach Davis for comment, but was told earlier in the week he’d be following the draft with his family in his hometown of Spokane, Wash.
Davis was a star for Utah State last season, garnering All-American honors from CBS Sports, Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated. At cornerback, he was one of the nation’s top pass disrupters, finishing with 17 pass deflections and five interceptions. He also had 64 tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss.
After helping lead the Aggies to an 11-2 record and a win in the Idaho Potato Bowl, Davis was invited to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine.
It was a remarkable climb from a slow start to football. Davis picked up the sport at Central Valley High School, then earned a scholarship to Western Washington. When the program folded the year after he joined it, Davis went to De Anza College in California to continue his football career, earning Utah State’s attention.
“Obviously with his experience level, you would think that he may be a little bit of a developmental player, but I think the guy has the skill set to play in this league,” said Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, addressing the Miami media. “I think that with the great coaching that we have and the players around him, he will develop fast.”
Utah State coach Matt Wells said he was proud of the way Davis worked to elevate himself to a pro prospect while earning his degree in a year and a half at Utah State.
“We’re all tremendously happy for Willie,” he said. “He’s a good young man, and he’ll have a great career. The thing that separates Willie is his drive to be great, and he works very hard.”
Davis is the fifth Utah State player selected in the draft in the last three years, and it marked the third straight year the Aggies have had a pick in the first three rounds. Other Aggies are still hoping to be selected in the later rounds, including running back Kerwynn Williams.
Wells said he was glad to have a player like Davis representing Utah State in the NFL.
“I talked to him this morning and wished him the best,” Wells said. “As we recruit these young men and watch them develop, we’re proud of how they represent us.”
Miami is in need of a defensive overhaul after allowing almost 4,000 passing yards last season and getting only 10 interceptions as a team. Cornerback was an area of need, especially after former Ute Sean Smith left for Kansas City.
A closer look
• The Dolphins trade three picks to move up to grab Utah State cornerback Will Davis.
• Utah State has now had picks in the first three rounds for three straight years
• Davis recorded 64 tackles, 17 pass deflections and 5 interceptions as a senior