"The first thing he said was, ‘Coach, I'm gone. I'm going to go pro,'" said Jim McFather, who coached Davis at Randolph-Clay High School. "And we were real excited for him. I think it's probably in his best interest to go ahead and go."
Davis, a junior, led the Bulldogs with 81 tackles this season. He was a consensus All-SEC selection and was named All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation and the American Football Coaches Association.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has yet to publicly confirm that he's leaving, but several Georgia insiders have expected it for several weeks. He didn't return a message left on his cell phone Tuesday afternoon.
McFarther said Davis had made up his mind to leave prior to the Outback Bowl but didn't want to take attention off the team by making an announcement.
His departure may or may not influence linebacker Odell Thurman and offensive guard Max Jean-Gilles, both of whom are expected to forgo their final year of eligibility for the NFL Draft. Davis considered turning pro after last season, when he was a third-year sophomore.
"He said, ‘Coach, I think I'm going to wait a year,'" McFather recalled.
This year, Davis' desire to financially care for his mother and young son, and a fear of serious injury outweighed his desire to make one more run at a national title, McFather said. Davis missed this year's Kentucky game after twisting his ankle and knee.
"The knee injury he had, I think that probably weighed into it," said McFather, who now coaches at Schley County. "He didn't say that, but I think it probably had to. That could've been a season- or career-ending injury. This way, he's going to be guaranteed to make some money."
Davis said Saturday he wouldn't leave unless he thought he'd be a top 15 pick in April's draft. He asked the NFL's underclassmen advisory committee to project his status but said Saturday he hadn't received its answer.
Todd McShay — an analyst for Scouts, Inc., the highly regarded NFL scouting service — projected on Dec. 20 that Davis would be the 14th-best player available in this year's draft and the top safety chosen. It's important to Davis to be the first safety selected, McFather said.
"ESPN did thing before bowl week that he would be the No. 1 safety taken, and I think he probably will," McFather said.
According to ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper, Davis is the sixth-best junior available at any position. Davis is Kiper's top-rated junior safety, and the class of senior safeties this season is not formidable. Stanford's Oshiomogho Atogwe is the top senior safety in the country, according to Kiper.
If McFather gets his wish, Davis will be chosen No. 8 overall by the Dallas Cowboys, McFather's favorite team. He has already expressed that desire to Davis.
"He said, ‘Coach, they have two good safeties,'" McFather said. As McFather and Davis wrapped up their Sunday conversation, McFather left his former player with this thought, "You know Darren Woodson retired. We need another good safety."