Country boy: Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis on playing SEC football, tackling teammates and hunting gators
He loves country music, was elected captain for a handful of games as a freshman and once tackled a teammate who was trying to score a touchdown. Meet Florida's Jarrad Davis, a junior linebacker with 55 tackles this season (including 7.5 for loss) for the 7–1 Gators. Florida will play host to Vanderbilt on Saturday. Earlier this week, Davis took a few moments away from practice to chat with Campus Rush.
Lindsay Schnell: You grew up in Georgia, were committed to Auburn at one point and had offers from Clemson and a couple other SEC schools—why did you go with the Gators?
Jarrad Davis: Florida is SEC football. I didn't get an offer from Georgia, but that's where I really wanted to go because that's where all my [high school] teammates were. But I love SEC football and Florida is right around the corner; I grew up watching Florida-Georgia. Why not be a part of something I've looked up to my whole life?
LS: When visited Gainesville, what stood out to you?
JD: The attitude that's around this place. Everyone wants to win and everyone expects to win. I'm part of a team with a bunch of confident guys. Every day when we step on the field, we're trying to get better. I went to a lot of other places and it wasn't like that sometimes. At Florida, that attitude was consistent.
LS: You were an Auburn commit for a while—is it weird that the guy you committed to at Florida, Will Muschamp, is now coaching the Tigers?
JD: It's kind of different. But I know this is a business. It's something you have to be able to handle as a player, and then you move on.
LS: Why things working so well under new coach Jim McElwain? How did he get you guys to buy in so quickly?
JD: It was a really simple transition with coach McElwain. He only had one big rule: Do what's right. You think about that rule with anything you do, and it doesn't matter. We carried that rule throughout the whole off-season, all summer and we made sure we took care of business. We did what we needed to do to put ourselves in this position. A lot of us might not have expected to do this well, but if we go back and look at the work we put in, it's definitely something we're deserving of. And it's something we're going to keep fighting for.
LS: If your success surprised a lot of you initially, now you do you walk into every game expecting to dominate?
JD: I think so. The way we practice during the week and the way we prepare, you have no choice but to be confident going into the game. On the bus ride over, you just feel like you're gonna win.
LS: In the East Carolina game, your teammate Alex McCalister recovered a fumble and—with less 30 seconds to go and you guys leading by a touchdown—started running toward the end zone. You tackled him. What did he say to you when he got up?
JD: [Laughs.] He was extremely upset. He's got this thing where he [thinks] if he gets the ball no one is gonna ever catch him. And I went up and I got him and pulled him down. We practice that all season, situational football. We got the win, let's go ahead and take it. That game got strung out a little bit longer than we needed it to. But in that situation, I knew the game was over, let's put the nail in the coffin [and take a knee].
LS: Did you apologize?
JD: Of course. I'm still apologizing to this day! It was one of those things where a defensive lineman had a chance to get a touchdown, and I took it away from him, I ripped it out of his hands. I'm forever sorry for that, and I tell him that every day.
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LS: You were an Academic All-SEC selection—what's the best or most interesting class you've taken in college?
JD: I took a class last year, a sports media class with professor [Ted] Spiker. He's a really great teacher; he makes the classroom environment awesome. You want to be in his class because of the way he teaches and carries himself, and the discussions he lets students have. I'm in this American History class right now that's really cool. The professor teaching my history class, professor [Steve] Noll … maybe if he sees this he'll give me some extra credit.
LS: Do you have a favorite personal highlight, or a favorite tackle that you've made?
JD: Hmm. Not really. That's one of the things I've had to work on since I've been in college. There are certain things you can do in high school that you can't get away with in college, and it's still something I have to work on. I'm so aggressive that when I get to the point of attack guys can sometimes make me miss. I really have to dial in and focus on having a base and getting the guy to the ground. I don't really have a favorite kind of tackle. But I really like meeting guys in the hole and standing them up. I don't think there are a lot of guys out there that can run me over.
LS: What's your favorite football memory?
JD: My favorite is probably from high school. My freshman year, we won the  state championship. We went up against this team, Northside Warner Robins, in the Georgia Dome. They outmatched us like crazy, all these D-I prospects on their team. But we had guys who had talent, and we played our game. We beat them 31–3 and we were 20-point underdogs. We shut them down in the Georgia Dome.
I absolutely love going to the Georgia Dome, that's why I'm making sure we work hard to get there this year [for the SEC championship].
LS: I assume you listen to country music, so who are your five favorite country artists?
JD: Of course I listen to country music. I'm from Georgia, I have to. But, hmm, I don't know if I have five.… I like Florida Georgia Line, I like a little bit of Luke Bryan. I had a teacher in high school who liked to listen to Carrie Underwood while we took tests, so I kind of like her because I got some good grades while listening to her.
LS: You're from Kingsland, Ga., which I've heard is pretty country. So, do you hunt and or fish? Do you have any desire to hunt for Gators?
JD: I've got a lot of friends who hunt and fish, but I usually stay in the house. Maybe one day I would go gator hunting. I mean, I wouldn't turn it down. Depends on who I'm going with. Probably need to go with someone who's comfortable around gators. Really, I just need an opportunity.