As practice for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game drew to a close Tuesday at St. Petersburg’s Shorecrest Preparatory School, former USF receiver Andre Davis casually stood near midfield.
It didn’t take long for scouts and personnel from several NFL teams to walk up one by one to chat with Davis, who responded to their presence by flashing a wide, toothy grin and making small talk.
Eventually, Davis was surrounded with them. Only his red practice jersey and short, mohawk-style haircut was visible to onlookers standing outside the scrum.
It’s the kind of attention that Davis, USF’s all-time leading receiver, hopes to get used to as he attempts to cement himself in the conversation for the NFL draft in May.
“A lot of the scouts, they love me,” Davis said with a smile.
“They’ve been telling me I’m a great character kid. They hear a number of great things about me from the staff at USF or from past people that have coached me at USF … They like my size and things like that — how I can possess the ball and stuff. They’re just telling me to keep doing what I’m doing and keep on working hard.”
Admittedly, Davis practiced with more confidence this week as he tries to separate himself from the likes of Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Maryland’s Darren Walker, among others.
So far, that extra swagger has paid off in Davis’ favor. On Monday, ESPN NFL reporter Cecil Lammey tweeted that Davis “might be the best player on the (Shrine Game’s) East team” and praised his ability to make flashy plays.
Davis, nicknamed Freakshow for his unbelievable ability to make catches, credited his natural desire to compete.
“Coming out here and seeing guys from LSU and Tennessee and all over, I just want to show that I belong and I can compete with the best of the best,” Davis said. “I feel like I’m among the best of the best. … (There’s) definitely a chip on my shoulder. I feel like I have a lot of doubters, so I just want to come out here and compete and show what I can do.”
Davis isn’t alone in that assessment.
Gardner, who primarily played quarterback with the Wolverines for five seasons, said he believes the Tampa native and Jefferson High alumnus has the makeup of a solid player.
“If you ask me if I’d throw to him, yeah, I definitely would,” Gardner said.
While appreciative of the praise he has received, Davis isn’t letting it go to his head.
Six days a week, Davis said he goes to the fields at Skyway Park in Town ‘n’ Country or the training facility Performance Compound in Westshore for workouts at 8 or 9 a.m.
He said he has also been working with a nutritionist to maintain a healthy diet and regularly keeps in contact with coach Willie Taggart and his agent, Harold Lewis, who is based out of St. Louis.
In addition to taking his regular reps as receiver in practice, Davis has also been utilized on special teams during punt and kickoff drills, something he has not done since his sophomore season under former Bulls coach Skip Holtz, in 2012.
“Being out here and learning from the coaches, the coaches know some good stuff and they’re teaching some good stuff,” Davis said. “So I’m picking up on it quick and learning actually how to go about it.”
In the end, for Davis, it’s all about achieving a lifelong dream of playing in the NFL. On Saturday at 4 p.m., before a national television audience at Tropicana Field, he hopes to take another step toward making it a reality.
“Anything can happen in the draft process,” Davis said. “All you need is one team to draft you. I’m really not worried about any of the mock drafts or what people are saying and stuff like that. I’m just going to come out here day in and day out, work hard, and hopefully, I’ll get a chance.