Cal Football: Ashtyn Davis Taken by Jets in Third Round of NFL Draft; Quotes Added

Jake Curtis

Safety Ashtyn Davis, who came to Cal as a walk-on, was selected by the New York Jets in the third round of the NFL draft on Friday. He was the fourth player taken in the third round, and the 68th overall pick. 

Davis is Cal’s highest draft pick since quarterback Jared Goff went No. 1 overall in the 2016 NFL draft.

"I'm hyped up and ready to get started," Davis said from his home in Santa Cruz soon after he was drafted.

Cal linebacker Evan Weaver is still waiting for his name to be called. It should come Saturday.

Davis joins a Jets team that already has two established safeties: strong safety Jamal Adams, who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018 and 2019, and free safety Marcus Maye, a second-round pick in 2017 who started all 16 games this past season and has made 38 career starts.

Nonetheless ESPN already as Davis listed as the backup to Maye at the free safety spot, the position Davis played at Cal.

"I'm excited to go to a team where there's guys that are established, and guys that obviously know what they're doing and have had success. And learn behind these guys and soak up as much knowledge as I can," Davis said.

CBS gave the Jets a grade of A- for the selection of Davis and said this about Davis:

"Injured during the pre-draft process, but he's an impact safety with serious speed and range from center field. Hits like a linebacker. Good instincts too. Smooth athlete. Maybe insurance if Jamal Adams is moved?"

The New York Post reported this:

"Davis is a versatile defensive back who has played cornerback, too. The Jets would seem to be set at safety with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, so they may be looking to move Davis around the field."

Davis was the sixth safety taken in the draft. No safeties were taken in Thurday's first round, but they started to come off the board early Friday. Alabama's Xavier McKinney, Kyle Dugger of Lenoir-Rhyne (a Division II school located in Hickory, N.C.), LSU's Grant Delpit, Antoine Winfield Jr. of Minnesota and Jeremy Chinn, a star at Southern Illinois, an FCS school, were the safeties picked in the second round.

The wait ended for Davis with the fourth pick of the third round, when the Jets pulled the trigger on him.

"My hands were shaking," he said. "I didn't expect to be that nervous. It was awesome seeing my parents' reactions and how excited they got."

There was considerable uncertainty about the round in which Davis would be drafted, partly because of his postseason surgery and partly because he was unable to provide NFL scouts with a 40-yard dash time. 

He has not played in a game for a while. Davis' most recent game action was the Nov. 30 win over UCLA, and he didn't play the entire game in that one either. He missed the Bears’ win over Illinois in the Red Box Bowl on Dec. 30 in Santa Clara because of an adductor injury that required surgery. He didn't play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25 in Mobile, Alabama, as he recovered from the surgery, and the only thing he did during the NFL Combine in late February was the bench press.

Davis was planning to run the 40-yard dash and agility drills for NFL scouts during Cal's Pro Day, but that event, which was scheduled for March 20, was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davis figured to record an impressive time in the 40-yard dash because he was the Pac-12 110-meter hurdles champion in 2017. He agreed Friday night that the cancellation of the Cal Pro Day may have affected his draft status.

"Yeah, I certainly think it hurt me a bit," he said, "but like I said in other interviews -- perspective. My problems are very small compared to a lot of people. There's some other people who are dying from what's going on right now, and I think that's important to keep in mind.

"I was still fortunate enough to be given an opportunity, and I'm going to run with it."

Davis said that if he had been clocked in the 40 after having sufficient training, "I think I could have run a pretty special time for a safety, but unfortunately that wasn't the case."

It's been a long road to the NFL for Davis. He faced family hardship as a youngster, which was detailed in this article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Davis was planning to attend the University of Redlands after his senior year of high school. But he changed his mind and opted to attend Cal without a scholarship in either football or track. He became a star on the track squad and eventually talked his way onto the football squad.

Now he is in position to make some big-time money if things pan out the way he hopes. Presumably that will take care of the loan his parents had to take out to pay for his schooling at Cal before he was awarded a scholarship.

Some media outlets Friday night were calling Davis the Mystery Man because of his lack of exposure and the fact that he didn't record the measurables NFL scouts like to look at.

"I'm no stranger to adversity," he said. "I was a walk-on. I'm used to clawing my way, and I'll do whatever it takes to help Jets Nation win."

He hasn't given much thought to how far he's come; he's more interested in making an immediate impact with the Jets.

"This is just the start of the journey," he said, "and I'm not ready to slow down now."