Detroit Lions team president Rod Wood, general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia spent about an hour Monday night taking questions from season ticket members during their annual summit at Ford Field.
One fan, a first-year season ticket holder, came up to the microphone about 40 minutes into the program and shared a story about Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, who he went to high school with in Georgia. The fan talked about how Davis would stand up for his (the fan's) brother, who had special needs, and protect him from bullies.
He wanted Quinn and Patricia to expand on the type of man Davis has become as a professional athlete, and wanted to know about his potential as a player.
Both Quinn and Patricia first thanked the fan for his story, and then raved about Davis’ character and playing potential.
“Jarrad is a special guy for many reasons on and off the field,” Quinn said.
Quinn then told the fan a story about going down to Gainesville, Florida to work out Davis in the pre-draft process before the 2017 draft, and being upset that Davis’ agent had advised him not to conduct on-field workouts for teams.
“I was pretty upset for about five minutes,” Quinn said. “Then we walked into the meeting room and we started talking and we started watching film and I started to hear his story and all the stuff you are describing, in the next 10 minutes, I was like, ‘I don’t need to see this guy work out. I know he’s a guy that’s going to fit for the Lions.’”
Quinn ended up taking Davis with the 21st overall pick in the first round of the 2017 draft.
“I’d say from the minute we drafted him, he came up the next morning, flew up with his mom and his dad and you could tell where he got it from because his parents are unbelievable people,” Quinn said. “And I would say he’s if not the hardest worker on our team he’s one of the top five or 10 hardest workers on our team.”
That’s been evident in the way Davis has improved his game over the last two seasons. He was a natural leader the moment he arrived, but he really took the reins of Matt Patricia’s defense last year and became the unquestioned leader on that side of the ball.
He’s improved in nearly every category from his rookie season, totaling 100 tackles (73 solo), 6.0 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits and five passes defended in 2018. He was one of two players (Darius Leonard) to produce 100-plus tackles and 6.0-plus sacks in the NFL in 2018 and is the only player in Lions history to do so.
Quinn said Davis essentially lives at the training facility, and there are times when the team literally has to kick him out of the building to get the proper amount of sleep they require.
“We have a sleep doctor come in and say, ‘Hey, you guys need seven or eight hours of sleep,’” Quinn said. “Jarrad’s not getting seven or eight hours of sleep. I’m telling you that right now.”
Patricia knew Davis through the draft process while in New England, but when he arrived in Detroit, Quinn told him he would instantly love working with the second-year linebacker. That’s certainly been the case.
“That’s who this guy is every single day,” Patricia said to the fan. “He cares about people. He’s obviously a great football player. He’s going to be a great part of our organization and a great leader and he’s still really young. This guy just finished his second year and he has a maturity level that’s beyond his years and experience in the league.”
Patricia tapped into a new skill set allowing Davis to rush the passer more in his defense. That’s been a nice addition to his repertoire. Davis’ coverage skills also improved from his rookie year.
He’s still a young player who’s going to make some mistakes from time to time, but Davis is certainly trending in the right direction as a player.
As a person and a team leader, Davis has a determination to be great in everything he does, and the Lions are benefitting from that both on and off the field.