Quickly Davidson Impresses at the NFL Combine
BY JAY GREENBERG
Kevin Davidson had to take a Princeton final exam during his week in St. Petersburg for the East-West Shrine game and then, after seven days at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, was immediately back at work Monday on his senior thesis. Further exposure to the scouts at his Pro Day is just eight days away, followed by some private workouts by requesting teams.
After four years of a Princeton academic workload combined with demanding football, this quarterback hasn’t needed to run around cones to have already demonstrated a certain agility. But of course that’s not necessarily the kind that professional football teams seek.
Whatever they need, Davidson was in Indianapolis to please. Measured against power five quarterbacks, top of the draft kinds of talents, Davidson came out first and second in two different agility drills – the Five-Ten-Five Shuttle and The L.
We would describe those to you, but that would risk vertigo. Suffice it to say this Ivy cat moved like a cat; the results perhaps not yet enough on their own to put a place in the April 23-25 draft in Davidson’s pocket. But certainly it was important reinforcement that he can slide around in one.
“It’s an interesting test of how well you bend and how quick you are,” said Davidson. “A lot of teams use that to assess movement.”
Last week 28 different NFL quarterback coaches, some head coaches and a few GM’s tried to get a read on what makes Davidson tick, which is just as important as demonstrating he can throw a bomb, which he did, too. Since it is all fact gathering at this stage, Davidson knows not to waste any time guessing which teams have the most interest, although of course it’s safe to say the ones who already have expressed a desire to set up private workouts following Princeton’s Pro Day on March 12 seem intrigued.
The combine invite, earned by his performance in St. Petersburg, was a rare opportunity for a Princeton player – Caraun Reid is the only previous one to have been extended one – and it appears Davidson nailed it.
“I felt like I had a great day. Thursday throwing to the receivers and tight ends and then threw to running backs Friday,” said Davidson. “Then I was asked to throw to the linebackers on Saturday and defensive backs Saturday, a good sign.”
“It was really long hours; a lot of interesting tests, including two days of medical exams on injuries I haven’t had since freshman year of high school. They looked into it like it happened yesterday, took deep dives into everything. I knew going into the week that the most important aspect would be the interviews and I thought they went extremely well.
“Scouts (who have been to the Princeton campus) telling them what kind of guy you are only goes so far. They want a better feel. It makes sense to me: If I went around and interviewed 20 high school quarterbacks, I could make a great conclusion on who would fit best into Princeton’s culture.”
“How you answer the questions, all the psychological and behavioral testing tells them whether I am a team-first quarterback or not. It’s not like you can just answer ‘Yes, I am a team-first guy.’ They go really deep and ask hard questions that tell them what your intentions are and what kind of goals you have for your rookie and even second, third and fourth years. It’s 15 minutes of them grilling you with questions and they are not easy ones. I think they get to the bottom of it.”
Speaking of bottoms, there is a short one on the pit of Davidson video – 11 starts at Princeton, all but one happening before his senior year.
“Yes, that came up quite a bit – as it did at the Shrine Game,” he said. “So they wanted to hear more,” said Davidson. “A lot of them had heard of Chad (Kanoff) and John (Lovett), so my story made sense to them. And they were intrigued by the fact that I only played one year and still made it to the combine.”
“[The context of it] was, ‘If we bring you in as a rookie, we want you to help our starter, see things on the field that will support him. They liked that I did that at Princeton.”
Thus Davidson came out of the week feeling that three years as a backup was considered more of plus for him than a minus. There is some truth to the conundrum that the more they watch you, the greater the chance of finding something they don’t like. In the case of Joe Burrow of the national championship LSU Tigers, a candidate to go first overall, it is hand size. And that was Davidson’s worst measurable too.
For the record, because Davidson was next alphabetically in his group to Burrow, they spent a lot of time together, and Kevin reports his new friend’s handshake was plenty gripping, just like Davidson’s own.
“The media loves talking about that,” he said. “My hands are as big as the others’ but my thumb doesn’t bend like theirs because of all the basketball I played.”
“I’ve never had issues controlling the football or fumbling, never had a history of the ball slipping out of my hands while getting tackled. I made some throws to (Jacob) Birmelin when I was half getting tackled and still got it out, right on point. At Cornell, where it was 20 degrees, the ball came out fine.”
Sounds like a senior thesis: The effect of hand size and thumb mobility on turnovers by NFL quarterbacks. Instead Davidson is doing his on David Petraeus, retired commander of Armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and former Director of the CIA, dinner pending soon between the two in New York.
Someone may be there with a stopwatch as Kevin runs for the train. Busy time. Exciting, too.