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Combine Interview: ASU's D.J. Davidson Propelled by Faith and Family

Arizona State DL D.J. Davidson said he's ready to do whatever asked to make it at the next level.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Some would say the opportunity to be at the NFL Scouting Combine is a dream come true. Arizona State Sun Devils defensive tackle D.J. Davidson didn't have that dream until high school.  

"I actually didn't start playing football until my high-school years. I took it real serious my freshman year," Davidson said. "But ever since I started playing, I've been dreaming about this moment, the opportunity, and be the best I can every day."

Davidson says he hasn't had any formal interviews with teams in Indianapolis, but did believe his informal interview with the New York Giants stuck out among the chats he's had already. 

Playing as a nose tackle, Davidson says he feels better equipped to play in a 4-3 defense, and has been training at EXOS in Phoenix during the offseason.

"Just be less stressed about the situation and be relaxed. Whatever comes naturally is going to come," answered Davidson when asked what he's learned through the draft process thus far. 

"What I prepared for (in) this moment throughout the whole year playing football, the people I've talked to and the staff, my teammates and other people who have gotten me to this point (including) my mom, grandmother, coaches, just think about them and how fortunate I am. This opportunity is once in a lifetime. Those are the things that push me every day and push me in that direction."

Davidson is a fierce player in the trenches, yet a well-spoken individual when the shoulder pads are off and the cameras are rolling. The mantra "faith, family and football" lives and breathes with Davidson.

He said, "Just being faithful to God helps me be humble, be calm and collected knowing that anything I've done personally, I'm not in control of any of my destinations. All I can do is the tools he's gifted me with, allow those moments and those opportunities to have his name glorified.

"Anything I do is never going to be good enough, but everything I do for Him is going to be good enough. That's how I go about my thinking process in my faith and how it fits into my daily life, my marriage and all those types of things." 

Behind every good man is a better woman, and Davidson knows that he has the support of his wife every step of the way.

"It's like a business trip, I've been talking to my wife every night and keeping her updated. She's back at home by herself and she's a big part of my 'why' and why I come here every day. I'm going for her, I'm going for our God, making sure they know that I love them," said Davidson, who said he does not currently have any children but said he hopes they're able to settle down within the next two years. 

No pressure, Mrs. Davidson. 

On the field, Arizona State has helped Davidson prepare for the next level thanks to a staff littered with professional experience.

"I think the staff there (prepared me), I was coached by a whole NFL staff. Herm Edwards was the head coach, Marvin Lewis, Antonio Pierce, Donnie Henderson, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Mawae was there, the list goes on of (NFL) people that were there. Coach (Shawn) Slocum was with the Green Bay Packers for a little bit, and all those people that set the standards," said Davidson. 

"I think that system and those people over there set a lot of us up in this moment right now to be a professional, to act right and have good character (while) at the same time competing. In that system where you're competing every day, there was never a day where your spot was secure. You got to come in and work in the weight room, film room, in the meeting rooms every day. If you don't show that in that system, you're just going to be the next man up."

Davidson refused to be buried in the depth chart at Arizona State despite redshirting and eventually climbing his way to a starting role in 2019. 

"It wasn't tough (to redshirt), but I definitely learned a lot from the older people like Renell Wren, Tashon Smallwood, JoJo Wicker, all those guys when I was a freshman (were) people I looked up to when I first came in to ASU, they all set the standard for what was to come in the future of D.J. Davidson," said Davidson, who accrued 137 tackles in 37 career games.

Davidson shared the field with star defensive lineman Jermayne Lole, who was projected to be a high pick in this year's draft prior to a season-ending injury in preseason practice. 

That's when Davidson stepped up, having the best season of his career with 57 tackles (6.5 TFL) and four passes defended in 12 games. According to his official profile, Davidson recorded 31 defensive stops on run defense this year, good for second in the FBS among interior linemen behind only Cincinnati's Curtis Brooks.

Davidson said, "Lole's a big part of the defense; I love him. He definitely brings energy to the team that everyone needs. He's a good leader. When it comes to rallying us (following his injury), it's next man up in the system, and not in a bad way. In a good way.

"You had Shannon Forman fill in that spot right there, he lived up to every bit of the hype. B.J. Green, Omarr Norman-Lott, they all stepped up in that position as a three -technique . . . Everybody came in, showed their abilities and everyone prayed for Lole a quick recovery. Whenever he comes back, he's going to dominate and he's coming with a force."

Playing on the defensive line is mostly a job that involves collecting bodies and filling gaps for the success of others. Davidson walked All Sun Devils through some of the tips and tricks in what it takes to wreak havoc in the interior.

"I think as a nose tackle, most of the time we have to push the pocket. We have to be able to let the quarterback feel our pressure. It's not going to be nothing fancy, nothing quick or cute, it's going to be something strong and powerful. It's going to be a power-rush, it's going to be a push-pull, a snatch (rush). If I see an offensive lineman light on his heels or light on his hands, you can give a Delta call (to the defense). If you see it's empty set in the backfield, (that would be) a Delta call. If the back rushes back in (to the backfield), you might have to bounce back out to a run-down mindset. Just things in those nature I take into account (before the snap). I talk with my ends if I'm running a game with them, talking with my three -technique if I'm going to be running a stunt with them. Inside games, outside games, communicating where a slide is going to go, just all those type of things (are handled before the snap), so you're not running into the slide because you're going to get your end killed by the center because the center is going to be sitting there waiting for him. All of those things go through our thought process to understand the pass rush, who has the low hip, who has the high shoulder . . .  It's a quick thought process."

If you've paid any attention to Arizona State football in the last year, you'll know the ongoing investigation by the NCAA has had an impact on the school's momentum on and off the field. 

All Sun Devils spoke with Arizona State center Dohnovan West at the Combine, who said the team rallied around each other thanks to the investigation and negative attention that came with it. 

"I think they said it just right, it was a come together kind of moment. I think when it comes down to it, I don't personally know what happened or anything that was going on, I just stayed the course and believed what I was taught. The people that got me to this spot I believe had my best interest, they had the team's best interest," said Davidson. 

"I think it brought everybody closer honestly (with) that 'us vs. them' mentality. Coach Joe Connolly, our strength coach, he had this mentality of 'burn the ships' . . . There's no turning back from this point. Whatever happened, happened. Whatever opportunity is right now, we're gonna make the best of that."

Davidson has worn a pitchfork (and sometimes Sparky) on his helmet since 2018. There will be a new football team for Davidson in 2022 and new threads to wear. Although Davidson was a fan of the fashion at ASU, it's the memories and connection with teammates that he'll miss the most.

He said, "I just think the brotherhood. Just having those connections you built the last three to four years, I've been there for five years, but people come in and out all the time. But I miss the brotherhood right now, even though I meet new guys up at EXOS and the training staff and all those people are phenomenal, but there's nothing like being with people you've known for three to four years having the same goal to get better and having that beast-mode mindset. That's what I'm going to miss the most."

The final question asked Davidson how he would sell himself to a NFL team.

He said, "I would say I played 60% of the snaps at ASU. I'm a durable player, I'm physical, and I'm a very intelligent player when it comes to understanding the run game and also the pass-rush games, more than just rushing as a rusher. Being aware of the pocket presence, being aware of what my job is on the line so I can help the person next to me out as well to do their job easier.

"I'm a reliable guy, somebody who is going to be truthful. If I mess up, I'm going to call myself out, they don't have to call me out. Whatever I did good, I don't want them to praise me for that because that's my job at the end of the day. That's what I'm here to do, and that's all I need."