Senior Day came and went, and Jarrad Davis never played a snap.
The senior linebacker, the “heart and soul” of Florida’s defense as he’s referred to by the coaching staff and his teammates, spent the game on Nov. 12 against South Carolina relegated to the sideline, tending to the ankle injury he re-aggravated a week earlier in a road loss against Arkansas.
But that didn’t stop him from making an impact on his teammates like he has for the past four years.
During pregame warmups and throughout the game, Davis called out assignments to his younger teammates and led them through drills.
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For his last home game as a student-athlete, Jarrad Davis was a coach.
“It brought me to a new territory,” he said. “It showed me a lot of things that I didn’t know about and I kind of appreciate what the younger guys did and how they took me even though I was down, they took everything I was telling them and they used it on the field.”
Fast forward a month, and Davis has one game remaining in his UF career — No. 20 Florida’s matchup with 21st-ranked Iowa in Monday’s Outback Bowl.
He’s a game-time decision to play, but he plans to make an impact either way.
“It means everything. It’s the last time I really get to put the orange and blue on,” Davis said. “It’s so surreal.”
For the last two years, Davis has been Florida’s unquestioned emotional leader. On the field, he calls the shots.
“He’s the guy that kind of runs the show,” linebacker Alex Anzalone said.
It’s a sense of respect that was earned after a long and winding road that got him to Florida.
He started at linebacker and tight end at Camden County High in south Georgia but wasn’t heavily noticed on the recruiting trail.
Each school had one criticism or another, according to Davis’ high school coach, Jeff Herron. He was too small. He was too slow.
As his high-school career began to wind down, his only offer was from Auburn, a school that saw its coaching staff overhauled during Davis’ senior year.
Then, Herron said, Davis called him on Christmas break.
“I don’t think Auburn wants me to come,” Davis told his coach. “I just don’t get a good feeling.”
Herron said from there, he called around and made a case on Davis’ behalf. Eventually, he got around to then-Florida head coach Will Muschamp, who ultimately offered Davis a scholarship. He accepted it the next day.
“The rest is history,” Herron said.
Muschamp added: “Very instinctive, very tough and then you meet him and he’s even better. … He’s a better person than he is a player and I think he’s a heck of a football player.”
Heading into Monday’s Outback Bowl, Davis has 205 career tackles, including 20 for loss. He’s second on the Gators’ defense this year with 60 tackles, despite missing three games.
But beyond the stats, it has been Davis’ grit, his determination, his want-to throughout his career that has pushed him to the level where he has been producing.
“I can’t say enough good things about this guy, how he’s built and how he’s wired, how important the real things are in life to him,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “That’s a guy that you want in your locker room.”
McElwain has Davis in his locker room for one more game.
After that, it’s off to training and waiting until his name is called in April’s NFL Draft, where some experts have him going in the first round.
“If I had the chance to do it over again, I’d be right back here,” Davis said. “Right back here. No matter what, I’m Florida all the way.”