Mike Davis has emerged as the Seahawks' starting tailback after just three games on the team's 53-man roster. Here are five things to know about Davis.
Sunday was who Mike Davis always thought he was.
In his second game with his second NFL team, Davis sparked the Seahawks’ biggest win of the season with 64 yards rushing and another 37 receiving.
The rushing yards were more than he had for either of the entire two seasons he played with the 49ers, who waived him roughly two years after taking him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft.
If his confidence was momentarily shaken when that happened, though, Davis says being claimed by Seattle the following day and knowing he was getting another shot served as motivation.
“I just wanted to prove that I belong,’’ Davis said.
Two games doesn’t a career make, but in gaining 82 yards since being called up from the practice squad prior to the contest against Atlanta, Davis has for now claimed the Seahawks’ starting tailback job.
So who is the real Mike Davis?
Here are five things to know.
1. He grew up in Atlanta following in the footsteps of a brother who also played in the NFL
Specifically, the Davis family grew up in Bankhead area just west of Atlanta.
“We grew up rough, man,’’ said Davis. “I’ve got two brothers and three sisters and my mom and dad, so it was a packed house and we stayed in the hood. It was rough growing up.’’’
His brother, James, was a standout football player who went to Clemson, where he became the first player in school history to lead the Tigers in rushing all four seasons. He later played parts of three seasons in the NFL.
His brother’s influence led to a fateful decision for Davis when he entered his sophomore year at Stephenson High.
“I was a safety and linebacker all my life until high school and at Stephenson we had a lot of guys who get scholarships,’’ Davis said (former Seahawk first-round pick Bruce Irvin attended Stephenson for a time). “So they told me you’ve got to play one way, you can’t play both ways.’’
Davis thought about it and decided he wanted to be like his brother and chose running back, the position he has played ever since.
2. He wanted to follow his brother to Clemson but ended up at Clemson’s biggest rival, instead
Davis emerged as one of the top running back recruits in the nation for the Class of 2012 (in fact, through his high school experiences he became close friends with Rams running back Todd Gurley and said he has been part of a group chat with Gurley and a few others for years).
That might have made it seem a given he’d also play at Clemson like his brother.
“I used to go to all of Clemson’s practices and everything,’’ he said.
But Clemson was late to offer Davis, not doing so until two months prior to signing day, which he says now “I felt like was disrespect.’’ In fact, stories at the time stated that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney decided to cancel a late visit Davis had planned, which caused James Davis to unleash a few Tweets criticizing his own school in defense of his brother.
Mike Davis instead ended up at South Carolina — maybe Clemson’s biggest rival — the first school to offer him, and where he ended up becoming one of the top rushers in the SEC as a sophomore and junior, though only after sitting behind Marcus Lattimore as a freshman, from which he said he learned a little patience that has come in handy later.
“It did kind of get to me,’’ he said. “But it’d get to anybody that is recruited high coming out of school. When you’re recruited high out of high school you think you should play right way. But in my case I shouldn’t have thought that because I had Marcus Lattimore (a standout whose carer was ended by a knee injury) in front of me. I learned a lot from Marcus and I’m glad I did sit behind him.’’
3, His 49ers career ended with a fumble.
Davis played for both Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly with the 49ers, largely serving as a backup to Carlos Hyde, carrying the ball 54 times in two years and never more than 10 in a game.
A turning point came in a game last Nov. 6 when he fumbled at the goal line against New Orleans. It was his only regular season fumble. But it was one too many for Kelly, as Davis never played again the rest of the 2016 season.
“I was trying to make a big play on the 1-yard line,’’ he said. “I was trying to score and it was my only fumble in San Francisco during the season and they sat me down for the rest of the year. … I asked the coaches what I could do to get back. I know I messed up. Like at that time I was feeling really bad, I was down in my head.The only thing I felt I could do was work hard to get back in it.’’
He never got a chance to play for new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan as the team waived him shortly after the draft in May.
4. He lost his sponsorship with Nike the day after he was cut by the 49ers
Yep, along with not knowing what his NFL future held after he was waived by the 49ers he says “I got a termination letter from Nike’’ of a sponsorship deal he had with the company the next day.
“I was like ‘sheesh, it’s crazy,’’’ he said. “It was like everything was going downhill from that point. But I was like ‘it’s never going to happen to me again.’ I just wanted to work harder.’’
Seattle picked him up the next day, having seriously weighed drafting him in 2015 and thinking maybe they could get out of him the player they saw at South Carolina.
“We had him on the board kind of right about where he went,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We liked that he was a versatile player, that always rings to me, so he can do a lot of stuff, he can catch the ball and he was tough. He’s certainly shown all of that just in the short time.’’
Indeed, Davis’ receiving ability — he has six catches on six targets with the Seahawks — allows him to stay on the field on third downs and in two-minute situations.
Seattle reluctantly waived the 5-9, 217-pound Davis at the cutdown to 53 and when he cleared waivers the Seahawks brought him back to the practice squad. He was activated when C.J. Prosise was put on Injured Reserve and the Seahawks decided to give him a shot to see if he could give life to a rushing game that’s been stagnant all season.
“Seattle was the only team that believed in me, gave me a chance,’’ Davis said. “And when the opportunity came I just knew I had to make the most of it. So in my head when I’m out there playing, it’s like ‘nobody else even looked at me. Nobody else even cared about me.’’’
5. One last thing — he loves shoes
Davis said he has been collecting shoes for years and has more than 100 pair.
But not just basketball or other athletic shoes. Davis said he also enjoys shopping at places like Valencia.
His latest purchase, which he proudly displayed on Twitter recently, was a pair of Vans.
“I never bought any before because I thought they would look big on my feet,’’ he said. “But I ended up buying them and I’m glad I did. They actually feel comfortable and look good.’’
Sort of like Davis himself in the Seattle backfield.