There are a lot of things that stuck out about Jamin Davis, who the Washington Football Team drafted with the 19th overall pick Thursday night, but what stood out the most about the Kentucky linebacker to head coach Ron Rivera had nothing to do with football.
Part of the pre-draft process is getting to know who the prospects are off the field. That is what Rivera tried to do with Davis; the only problem was that Davis was more focused on talking about his teammates. That might as well have been music to Rivera's ears.
"That, I found very refreshing," Rivera told reporters after Washington made the pick. "That conversation really wasn't about him, him, him. And that really struck me as a real positive."
Rivera had one answer when asked why Washington chose Davis: fit. Davis' football acumen -- 102 tackles and three interceptions last year -- was "outstanding" to the head coach, but finding the right fit in his mind isn't solely about what players do on the field. It's also about who they are as people, and in that regard, Davis fits perfectly into Rivera's vision for a sustainable, winning culture.
"He understands our culture, he has a tremendous background, the kind of background that I look for," Rivera said. "Very smart and intelligent young man. …He's what you look for in a football player."
Obviously, Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew loved all the numbers that Davis put up with ease. His stats on the field were backed up by some eye-popping Pro Day measurables, including an 11-foot broad jump, a 4.47 40-yard dash and a 42-inch vertical. Those numbers alone showed them he can perform from an athletic perspective.
But what helped sell Davis to Rivera and Mayhew was his character. Mayhew called it being a "football character guy." To put it plainly, Davis fit the culture Rivera is trying to build. Both of his parents have military backgrounds, which Rivera is partial to because of his own experiences with the military, so he is already familiar with many of the standards of discipline Rivera wants to establish.
On top of that, Davis struck Rivera as a "bright and intelligent young man" who was already able to understand some of Washington's tendencies. He knows how to fit in run lanes and play with leverage. That, Rivera said, is about playing team defense more so than anything else. He was appreciative of how well Davis understood that, and that level of comprehension showed up on film.
"That's the kind of stuff that really kind of led me into the direction of...thinking this is the right kind of young man that will fit into our program," Riviera said.
The athletic ability, Mayhew said, is the kind of stuff that sticks out immediately about Davis. But once he started to dig deeper, he saw there was more to Davis than just an exceptional athlete. This is a young man who loves football and the process of improving his skillset.
"He loves to work at it," Mayhew said. "He loves that grind, and that's the kind of player we really want to build with here."
Rivera said Davis was Washington's highest-graded defensive player, and Davis is excited to showcase his potential in the nation's capital.
During his pre-draft meetings with the team, Davis said he was focused on "giving them every bit of Jamin Davis that I could." That meant he wanted to show Rivera who he was as a person on and off the field. When it comes to meeting the expectations of being a first-round pick, he is "ready to show the world who I am." And with a favorite quote like "you can't have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic," it's clear he believes in earning his keep.
"It's just an unreal feeling and a dream come true," Davis said in a conference call after he was drafted. "I'm just ready to get to work."
It has only been about 15 months since Rivera was hired by Washington, and it did not take long for him to make it clear the type of player he wants on his team. He wants players who are tough, intelligent, love football and are focused on the team rather than themselves.
He found that last year when he took defensive end Chase Young with the No. 2 overall pick. It looks like Rivera got exactly what he was looking for once again Thursday night.
"I think we're getting a solid fit to what we're trying to create in terms of the culture," Rivera said. "We talk about having a sustainable, winning culture. These are the kind of guys you want to plug in."