Davis Could be a Rare Keeper in Indy

Usually no more than two or three undrafted rookie free agents make the cut annually for the Colts 53-man roster. Tulsa's Ashlan Davis has been impressive so far and is making a strong case for consideration as one of those rare keepers.

Colts rookie wide receiver Ashlan Davis is best-known for his speed as a returns specialist. He gained the attention of NFL teams with his NCAA record-breaking performances at Tulsa.

Captivated by speed since he was a youngster, Davis worked with his dad and his brother on a '69 Camaro and went to the racetrack with them to take in the sights and sounds of drag racing .

"We actually had a couple race cars back when I was a kid," Davis recently told ColtPower. "With my dad being a mechanic, we always had cars around that you would fix up to race, and we hung out at the track when we weren't at football games or baseball games. It was another thing for us to do like watching a game on TV or going hunting or fishing.

"We worked on it all the time; I couldn't drive it until I was sixteen, but I would get it out of the garage and wash it. It still needs a lot of work done to it, but it's one of our little hobbies on the side."

Davis graduated from high school and decided to head to Tulsa to unleash his speed and talent on collegiate opponents, beginning his assault on NCAA records. He was consistently a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball.

Davis' quickness and moves left many defenders flat-footed as he darted by them. By the time he finished his run at Tulsa, he had tied an NCAA record that had stood unmatched for over thirty years. Davis returned six kickoffs for touchdowns, a feat that ironically was accomplished by a man who shares his last name – Anthony Davis out of USC. And he knew that accomplishment would help him get noticed by NFL scouts.

"I think it played a big role in me getting into the NFL," he said. "My coach back in junior college told me if I ever made it into the league it'd be for special teams, so I already figured that's what it would be.

"As far as the record, it doesn't mean much now because I'm at the next level, but as far as looking back on what you've accomplished in your lifetime, I think it's a great thing."

Prior to the draft, Davis got the most attention from the Bears and the Patriots. The Colts interest came late in the process, and he couldn't really tell how interested they were in him.

"I had a visit scheduled with the Colts about a week before the draft. That was the only real interest they showed," he said. "As far as how much interest, I didn't know because I didn't get to come out for the visit. I kind of got delayed at the airport and they ended up canceling while I was still at the airport. About the only Colts representative I had ever seen was at our Pro Day."

While Davis watched the NFL Draft, he saw the Bears pick up Devin Hester, another speedster out of the University of Miami. So New England appeared to be his most likely destination as an undrafted free agent. They called after the draft, but so did the Colts.

"I think at that time Bethel Johnson was still in New England. And Massachusetts is a long way from Texas and I've heard it gets pretty cold there," he said with a hearty laugh. "I really have a lot of respect for Tony Dungy. I like the way he coaches and his style of offense; that was another reason I chose the Colts. I also felt like they were better Super Bowl contenders than New England."

As Davis firmed up his decision, there was one more phone call to make before he wanted to make before telling the Indianapolis that he would accept their offer. He called former Tulsa teammate Montiese Culton, who was already on the Colts roster.

"He played my junior year, which was his senior year, and I came to find out that his dad knew my dad; they actually grew up in the same neighborhood," Davis said. "I called him and asked him a lot of questions about how everything went last year for him with the Colts, and he gave me a lot of insight."

Davis joined a large field of talented players who would be vying for likely no more than two spots on the roster for returns specialists. The Tulsa speedster entered camp with the credentials to succeed. In addition to tying the NCAA record for the most kickoff returns for a touchdown during a collegiate career, he also eclipsed the single-season kickoff returns for a touchdown record during his junior year with five. And he set yet another NCAA record by scoring four of those five touchdowns in consecutive games. But it would take more than his past to ensure a bright future in the NFL. And Davis was determined to show the commitment and level of talent required to claim a roster spot.

The Colts started weeding out talent the first day that players reported to camp in Terre Haute, and now with the team heading into their third preseason game, Davis is still in the thick of the competition against players like seventh-round pick T.J. Rushing, Dan Sheldon, and Terrence Wilkins. Davis returned a kickoff for 25 yards against the Rams and another for 21 yards against the Seahawks. He also ran back a punt for nine yards against Seattle.

With so few opportunities thus far, he hasn't yet been able to show the level of talent in game action that he's been able to show his coaches during practices. But Davis is determined to make an impact in the NFL, fueled by an attitude where he's tougher on himself than anyone who watches him play.

"My expectations are higher than how I performed in that game," he said after the Colts' preseason opener in St. Louis. "I feel like I have a lot more to prove."

Although the Colts usually don't keep more than two or three undrafted rookie free agents annually – and despite Davis' conviction that he has more to prove to the team over these next couple of weeks – this rookie could be one of those rare keepers when the Colts have to trim the roster to 53 players. His will to work and his vision of the field as his blockers try to open lanes for him is going to make it hard for the Colts not to give him a roster spot or at minimum a practice squad slot this fall.

Be sure to check back on Friday for our exclusive Q&A feature with Ashlan Davis for our ColtPower Insiders. If you're an Insider and missed our previous profile article on this exciting rookie, click here to read "Jerry's Take On ... Ashlan Davis."

In-story photo: Steve Coleman/AP

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