Stanford coach David Shaw called Davis Mills the best quarterback in the country when Mills was a senior at the Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross, Ga., and national recruiting services agreed, ranking Mills above Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, Kellen Mond, and Sam Ehlinger.
Then came a knee injury during the state championship game during his senior year then another keen injury when he went to Stanford after turning down a late offer from Alabama.
“I was at his state championship game where he initially got hurt,” said Shaw. “We didn’t expect him to come and start as a freshman. As devastating as it was, we knew, OK, we didn’t plan on playing him, so he’s going to redshirt, he’s going to rehab, we know it’s going to be great.
“Then the second injury was the one that was really hard. I remember going up to Davis and saying, ‘Man I feel so bad for you, I know you just worked really hard to get back healthy and now you’re going to be, surgery, and rehab again,’ and he said, ‘Coach, I already been through it once, I’ll go through it again.’”
Mills, who declined to comment on the nature of the injuries to his knees, showed just how healthy he is again during Stanford’s Pro Day on Friday.
On a windy, rainy day in Palo Alto, Mills made all throws he was asked to make, completing 50 of 54 passes, and also showed some surprising athleticism, running a 4.66 and 4.58 in both his 40-yard dashes.
"He answered the bell,” said NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah. “A lot of pressure on Davis Mills with a limited number of starts (11), no combine, no all-star game opportunities, this was his one shot, and I thought he crushed it.
“He crushed it from the testing numbers that we got, and I thought it was a clean, really pure throwing session that he put on in the rain. The day could not have gone any better for Davis Mills.”
The Eagles likely took notice.
They are no strangers to Stanford products, with Zach Ertz, Nate Herbig, and J.J. Acrega-Whiteside on the roster and Casey Toohill a seventh-round pick last year who is now with Washington after the Eagles tried to sneak him through waivers to activate Vinny Curry last year when the Football Team claimed him.
The Eagles are also on the lookout for quarterbacks, with only Jalen Hurts on the roster at the moment.
Mills played just five games this past season due to the pandemic shortening the season and completed 66.2 percent of hits throws with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. In 2019, he played eight games, completing 65.6 percent with 11 TDs and five picks.
“It was a long path, obviously,” said Mills. “Got hurt senior year in the state championship and then again out here freshman year at Stanford. A little long journey. Started off at Stanford a little later than I wanted to. But I mean, really overcoming that adversity, it just taught me the life lesson of really just putting your head down.
“The harder you work and take time to develop things and get better over time, the more the results will come down the road.”
Mills may have just scratched the surface of his potential and, with so few games played in college, could be the kind of developmental quarterback the Eagles have in mind.
The question would be, at what point in the draft do you grab him?
If the medicals check out on the knees, he could go on the second day to some team.
If the Eagles think he's good medically, they could possibly make him the second of their two third-round picks, this one the 84th overall they got from the Colts in the Carson Wentz trade, in essence making it a Wentz for Mills deal?
Without a fourth-round pick, it would be dicey to leave him linger until their turn comes again with the 150th overall choice.
“His athleticism is impressive,” said Shaw. “This guy can run, he can move, and this year he was completely healthy.”
Shaw pointed to a game last year against Notre Dame when Mills absorbed two hits in the backfield on a zero blitz by the Irish defense and scrambled for positive yards. The coach talked about this season when Mills was able to move in the pocket, slide out of the way, and make what he called “big-time throws.”
“So many people misconstrue some of these different offenses where you throw a bubble screen, and it goes for 75 yards and the quarterback gets credit for that,” said Shaw. “The NFL isn’t that. The NFL is being able to sit in the pocket with guys in your face, and slide and find open windows and get the ball out of your hands.
“That really showed with Davis (during Friday’s pro day), in the wind, in the rain, moving around and throwing 45-, 50-, 55-yard balls that cut through the all that, was really, really impressive.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.
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