Steve Davis sat in his kitchen, watching out the window as his son Tyler neared their Long Island, New York home. The middle school was just down the road, making it an easy walk for his three kids. He watched as Tyler neared the house, passed in front and then, kept on going. The next day, it happened again.
For the rest of the week, Steve watched from the kitchen as the eighth grade Tyler would come down the street from school and continue on to the other end of the street where the high school sat.
Tyler was, as Steve describes, abundantly self-disciplined and responsible, so there was little worry about what he was getting into. Still, after a week his parents were curious as to where he was going each afternoon.
“I guess the kids in middle school didn’t take football serious enough or working out serious enough,” recalls Steve for JaguarReport.
“Without asking me or his mother, he went to the high school, set up a meeting with the high school coach and asked the football coach at the high school if after school he could walk to the high school and work out with them. The high school coach laughed and said ‘sure.’
"He did that for the entire year of eighth grade.”
Tyler Davis had—and has—always been incredibly motivated with an unrelenting order over his life. Steve laughs he and wife Cindy still have to direct their other two kids. But not Tyler. He was never told to do his homework or chores or workout, because doing all of those things was a given; because doing all of those things meant he could continue to play football and to play it well.
When you take a motivated personality and combine it with a clear goal, there are few dreams not available to them. And Tyler Davis had nothing if not a clear goal.
“He has been so laser focused on this from the age of six or seven…my wife would be out on the front lawn and he’d throw to my wife. He was just focused on—and I don’t think even as a kid it was ‘I wanna play high school football or I wanna play D-1 football.’ In his head, he wanted to play in the NFL.”
“I always dreamed about playing in the NFL,” echoes Tyler, “and knew that if I ever wanted to get to that level that I was gonna have to—not that I never didn’t work hard but I had to put it in overdrive and really hunker down and put as much time as possible.
So he made it happen.
It turns out, going to the high school to work out while still in middle school was just the beginning.
Georgia Tech Head Coach Geoff Collins would arrive to the facility around six each morning, giving himself an hour before the team showed up at seven for morning workouts. The coach in his first year with the Yellow Jackets would wander down the quiet halls in the early morning, thinking he was along. Then he would stumble across a meeting room. The tight end unit would be in there, alert and watching film. Tyler had ushered them in early. As a graduate transfer from UCONN, Davis was working to be a leader in a group that had not been utilized at Tech in decades. Collins was bringing a schematic change to Atlanta and Tyler Davis wanted to make sure he and his teammates were ready.
Plus, he’d already been there for hours anyways, so they might as well all get some work in with him.
“I tell Georgia Tech guys this a million times that 90% of the guys in there, in that Georgia Tech room, are more talented than I was,” admits Davis.
“But the thing that separated me from everyone else was, I was willing to do the work why the other dude was sleeping. I’d be up at Georgia Tech at 4:30 in the morning, I’d be at the facility by 4:45 while everyone else didn’t get there till 7.”
He finished his lone year at Georgia Tech with 148 yards and a touchdown on 17 receptions while reintroducing a team to a type of football long forgotten. He helped shape a culture under Collins, which was his primary goal anyways when transferring to Tech. He wanted to leave an impression and he feels he did just that, giving his team an example of how to work and even being named Lifter of the Year—an honor given to the guy who exemplifies the best performance, consistency and attitude all year round.
But it still wasn’t enough, not for Tyler.
“I started looking back on my first two years and realized this wasn’t the direction I wanted to go and then really put it in overdrive and hunkered down and just focused on getting better every single day. I didn’t really worry about the end goal, I just worried about being the best I could that one single day at a time and stacking good days on top of good days.”
Those good days began to start even earlier.
Steve got a call one day from Tyler’s agent. His son was on the other coast, training in Los Angeles and his agent wanted to pass along an update.
“I said ‘what’s wrong?’ He said ‘he’s showing up at the facility before anyone.’ I said ‘what do you mean.’ He said ‘the first guy with the keys show up and Tyler’s either at the door or sitting in the parking lot in his car.’ So it became a running joke that he was there before they were even open. But that’s how he’s rolled his life.”
It’s how he’s rolled his life and it’s what will help him continue to advance. After missing the cut for a NFL Combine invitation, the Davis family had accepted the likely reality he wouldn’t be drafted. He was one of the few in the country who had held a Pro Day workout before the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 shut down the world. At that Pro Day he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash, which would have been second among tight ends at the Combine. His cerebral knowledge of the game and that showing supremely helped put him on NFL team’s radars. But in all likelihood, he would be an undrafted free agent, albeit one sought after. As he returned home to New York for quarantine and the Draft, that was the general consensus in the house.
The family discussed different teams and who he should target as an UDFA, where he’d have the best chance to make the roster and maybe find somewhere warm so his parents could visit in the winter.
Then, the phone rang.
“I said ‘who’s calling,’” recalled Steve.
“And [Tyler] said ‘I don’t know, a Florida number.’ And I looked at his brother Bryan and said ‘who’s next.’ Bryan looked at me and goes ‘oh my God he’s going to the Jaguars.’”
Steve called his parents, at home in their mid-80’s, and told them to turn on ESPN right away before quickly hanging up to soak in the moment again as his son was drafted to Jacksonville in the sixth round, 206th overall.
“The feeling is immense pride and then truthfully more than pride, joy that he’s proven to himself, his brothers and all his friends that if you want something, commit to it and work your ass off, you will get there. Period.”
Steve is a football junkie, even getting the family season tickets when the New York Dragons played arena football on Long Island. But Tyler is the student of the game. Steve laughs, thinking about the times they’ll even see him moving the wide receiver around to the right spot before a play. With plans to work on Wall Street in the future, Tyler takes the same approach he uses to asses the stock market and applies it to film study and formations.
Explains Tyler, “The way that I was as a kid I was always so fascinated by the stocks and how charts work and all that and I always just compared it to football because all you’re doing on the charts is just following a pattern and you’re looking for tendencies. That’s what I did as a kid, just looked at the graphs and tried to find tendencies in the graphs just like you do tendencies of a defense when staring at defense.”
A quarterback for the majority of his football career, Davis transitioned to tight end when he arrived at UCONN. After transferring to Georgia Tech for his final year in a new offense, Davis is much more promise than production, just scratching the surface of what he can be as a tight end. He knows that. He’s ok with that. It means his best is yet to come.
“I’ve only played it for four years and playing quarterback my whole life definitely gave me a good foundation to build off of but just these past two seasons, especially looking back on my performance and grading myself pretty harshly, you could see the strides that I’m making every single year,” says Davis.
“I’m just scratching the surface and I think that obviously being a tight end now and a quarterback in the past definitely helped me out. But now to be able to work with [Jacksonville tight ends coach] Coach Middleton and to work in [Jacksonville offensive coordinator] Coach Gruden’s offense, I feel like my development is only gonna keep getting better.”
For now, he’s back home, waking up at 5:30am—an offseason luxury of sleeping in—before spending his entire day focusing on football. He is working on getting better on that same street he walked as a kid, in the same yard he threw the ball with his mom, at the same high school where he began work as a middle schooler and in the same basement that tells a whole other story about Tyler Davis.
One of the biggest pushes the Jaguars made this offseason was for “high character” individuals, guys that could help transform the culture of a locker room that needed a seismic shift. Tyler Davis is one of those guys. For proof, look no further than the basement walls. They aren’t covered in Tyler’s athletic memorabilia or championship trophies. Instead, wall to wall hangs platinum and gold records.
For Tyler’s entire life, Steve Davis has worked in the music industry. For the majority of his childhood, Steve was Senior Vice President of Artist Development for Atlantic Records before breaking off and hanging his own shingle. He represents primarily heavy metal bands, like Cannibal Corpse and Entheos. In his past, he’s been with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Petty, Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock to name a few. But it’s Korn that really set the tone for the man Tyler Davis would become and it’s a concert Steve Davis remembers vividly.
“He was maybe seven, maybe eight. And he was staring at Jonathan Davis, the lead singer, literally staring and he finally looks at me and ask ‘his mom lets him wear a dress?’ And I said ‘ok two things. It’s not a dress, it’s called a kilt. And where kilts are worn, men wear them. Number two, believe this or not, at a certain age, your mommy doesn’t tell you what to wear.’ I think that was more shocking than the kilt part.”
The message was sent. Some people are different. Not everyone dresses the same, not everyone has the same background. Sometimes people would walk into his home that looked nothing like his friends or their parents. But they got a hug from him and his parents just the same.
Steve’s job means he’s on the road a lot but spending time with his kids was paramount. So as young as seven, Tyler was stepping onto tour busses with his dad (with forewarning to the band, Steve clarifies. There are some things a kid just shouldn’t see). The only real question Tyler ever had—besides the kilt—was wondering why he couldn’t have a rocket shooting guitar.
“He was seven or eight years old and we were watching KISS and he looked at me and said ‘can I get a guitar that shoots rockets too.’ And then I had to explain that, well no. They either shoot rockets or they play, not both. And then he wanted to know how that guy was doing it and I didn’t wanna pull the curtains away.”
Steve calls Tyler a southern boy at heart, who has inexplicably fallen in love with country music and NASCAR. He isn’t asking for interstellar guitars any longer, but in a locker room that brings together a hundred men from all different parts of the country and walks of life, beliefs, politics, he did come away with a lesson that would set the foundation for a mentality that’s advantageous for the Jaguars.
“I think Tyler understands—and players understand, when you say the word team, you’re talking about the coaches, the strength coach, every single human being part of that organization. I think he understood that at a very young age because he would see a band. I would be their record label or their manager and then he’d meet their agent, then he’d meet their lawyer, then you’d meet their business manager. And I think he was able to see from a very young age that the success some of these people were having, there were teams around them. And the team wasn’t just five guys on a stage. There were people who were not on stage that people weren’t clapping for, that participated in helping get that band there.
“He was exposed to a lot of different things at very young ages because of what I do for a living…he had been on tour busses with me from the age of seven. He has seen alternative lifestyles for people. So he and my other two children are very, very accepting of people’s differences cause they, they don’t see any differences. They’ve been around all different people their whole lives, from all different backgrounds.”
It’s the greatest lesson music could teach him. Tyler can play the drums, something he picked up from his musically inclined parents, who actually met in the business. But it was never going to be his career. It was always going to be football. Steve and Cindy Davis along with their other two children have known that as they sat and cheered in every high school game, UCONN game, Georgia Tech game, home and away. But they knew it long before that as well.
“I remember him being so little that he couldn’t hold his head straight with the helmet on. He would run down the field with his head cockeyed. And I thought if football’s over, I’m gonna watch this kid play every single game.”
He’s going to have several more games to watch now, thanks to the same dogged determination that drove Tyler Davis down the field at six years old, too small for the helmet, down the road in eighth grade, looking for any opportunity to get better and down the path to the NFL dream that his driven him all his life.