Vontae Davis Competes For NFL Spot

The NFL draft is April 25th. For the second year in a row, the University of Illinois may have a first round draft pick. Junior cornerback Vontae Davis submitted his name as an early entrant into the draft, and he is projected to follow running back Rashard Mendenhall as a first rounder. He showed his skills for the NFL people at a recent pro timing day at the UI.

Vontae Davis helped himself and other Illinois NFL hopefuls by participating at the pro timing day held by the University of Illinois at the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility Wednesday. He did well at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last month, but he wanted to compete again. This allowed other Illini to get more exposure as representatives of 28 teams showed up with Vontae as the headliner.

Of course, his primary goal is to impress enough pro scouts to improve his draft status. Many potential first rounders forego repeated tryouts out of fear of showing imperfections. They figure their draft future is secure as long as they do nothing to mess things up. But Vontae sees it differently.

"I was just competing today. I told my trainer I'd do the whole combine again. I'm a competitor, and I want to show the coaches that I'm always trying to do better. I'm just competing against my own numbers."

Those numbers are outstanding. The exquisitely built 6'-0", 204 pound Davis recorded a blistering 4.35 in the 40 yard dash, and he had a vertical leap of 37 and 1/2 inches. In addition, he flashed the ball skills and quick hip rotation that make him a special defensive back prospect. He was close to perfection, but he wanted more.

"I felt real good. My trainer told me I have to do 20 pushups because I dropped two balls. But I did pretty good. I'm pleased with it, but I always want to do better."

As a pure athlete, there are few who supercede Vontae Davis. However, there were some concerns about him based on his interviews with NFL personnel at the Combine. While most still believe he will be taken in the first round, a few think he might fall to the second. Vontae realizes that speculation is worthless and isn't deterred.

"I don't care where I go in the National Football League. It's what they think of people. I've heard the opinions from the outside world, but what counts is on April 25th."

It is difficult for any NFL prospect to endure all the poking and prodding, the testing and evaluations, the speculation and delays. Their future in football is at stake, and the prize is too good not to give it your best effort. But it is a nervous, frustrating time for everyone.

"Yes, I wish it was over. At the same time, it is what you have to go through, and you have to go along with the process to be successful."

As to where he will end up, Davis is as confused as anyone. He is given impressions from teams but little in the way of solid evidence of interest. And he must show interest in all the teams, whether he wants them or not. It is a highly complex, treacherous process that won't come into focus until draft day.

"It's like a game of chess. I don't know where I can end up. I'm so anxious to find out where I'm gonna live April 25th. I'll probably watch it in D. C. with my grandmother and her family."

Who does he think wants him most?

"The Texans, New Orleans, Jacksonville. Really, I want to say the whole group. Anyone who gets Vontae Davis gets a good player and competitor who plays hard and learns the plays."

In the meantime, he will continue the process of visiting teams and enduring more workouts.

"I have private workouts with the Cleveland Browns on Friday. And then visits to the different places to see the facilities. I work out next week with the Dolphins."

Vontae Davis is a great athlete who had a tremendous three-year run with the Fighting Illini. He is also much brighter than some people think upon speaking to him. When he gets excited or nervous, his voice pitch raises and he sometimes speaks too fast for a clear understanding. This may have contributed to his combine evaluations.

But there's no doubt someone will be getting an outstanding football player and person. Vontae Davis represented the University of Illinois well, and he will do the same for some lucky pro team.

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