The former Akron defensive end signed a free agent deal with the Houston Texans

CANTON  Jamal Davis II is calling this year “Believe Season ’19,” but not just because he believes in himself.

He’s targeting the unbelievers, too.

“The whole league passed on me,” said Davis, the McKinley High graduate who went undrafted last weekend. “They didn’t feel they needed me. It just pushes me so much and I have a chip on my shoulder now. I have something to prove every morning.

“I’m just going to put my best foot forward and show the world something amazing.”

After earning all-conference honors each of the last two seasons as a defensive end at Akron — then putting on a stellar performance at the NFL combine — Davis was hoping to get drafted in one of last week’s middle rounds, either late Friday (Round 3) or early Saturday (Rounds 4-7). But as the seventh round wore on, his phone started lighting up from teams interested in signing him as a free agent.

“There were 10 to 12 teams that wanted to sign me,” he said. “Houston said they never expected me to still be on the board that late and they were crossing their fingers, hoping I wouldn’t get drafted. They told me they expected me to be gone between the second and fourth round.”

Houston had seven draft picks — including three on Saturday — but opted instead for Texas DE Charles Omenihu (fifth round), Central Michigan DB Xavier Crawford (sixth) and Texas A&M RB Cullen Gillaspia (seventh). But the Texans were one of the first teams to contact Davis after his college career ended and Davis felt they would be the best fit. He did his pre-combine training in Fort Worth, which is about four hours north of Houston.

“There were two or three other teams I was considering, so I was really just trying to figure out which schemes I fit best in and which position I’d be playing,” he said. “I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to make the team.”

The Texans run a 3-4 base defense, although like most NFL teams, they run a fair amount of sub packages, so they often use a 3-3-5. Davis said they view him as an outside linebacker who can rush the passer and drop into coverage.

“That’s something I’m familiar doing," said Davis, who also played linebacker at Pitt coming out of McKinley before transferring to Akron. "I played linebacker my whole life. It’s something I do really well.”

Davis (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) is coming off the best season of his college career. He finished third on the team in tackles (82, including 48 solo) and led the Zips in tackles for loss (16) and sacks (5.5). He also had an interception and forced a fumble, earning second team All-Mid-American Conference honors.

Davis then put on a show at the combine, finishing first among edge rushers in the 60-yard shuttle (11.78 seconds), third in the three-cone drill (7 seconds), fifth in the 40 (4.6 seconds) and 11th in the 20-yard shuttle (4.44 seconds). He also placed second in the vertical jump (39 inches) and fifth in the broad jump (10 feet, 2 inches).

Undrafted players make up about 20 percent of NFL rosters, so Davis has a solid chance of making the Texans’ team, either as a member of the 53-man roster or the practice squad. Houston also has one of the NFL’s best defenses, with OLB Jadeveon Clowney, ILB Benardrick McKinney and DE J.J. Watt each making the Pro Bowl last season. Davis will fly to Houston on Thursday for the team’s three-day rookie minicamp.

“Coming out of Canton, Ohio, I’ve always started off with little-to-nothing and had to make my way up to the top,” Davis said. “I’ve got no problem with that. I wouldn’t want it any other way. My college career wasn’t going my way at first and people saw what happened. I took matters into my own hand, saw what I had to do for myself (transferring) and made the best decision I could. I’m in this position because I left school and turned into what I thought I could be.

“I know what I’m capable of doing. I’m ready to show the world what I can do.”

 

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joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com

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