ATHENS -- He’s a walk-on. He’s only played one competitive football game in the past four years. And that one game wasn’t even on defense.
Meet Aaron Davis, the man who, even if he never plays a down for Georgia, is the spring symbol for the change Jeremy Pruitt has brought to Georgia’s defense.
Before spring practice Pruitt, hired in January as defensive coordinator, sat down for one-on-one meetings with each of his players -- including walk-ons such as Davis, a freshman.
“It felt good,” Davis said. “It was everybody getting an opportunity, equal time, to meet with him, and just talk to him.”
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Part of that message was that everybody would get a shot. And he’s been true to his word with Davis.
For much of the past few weeks, Davis has been first-team cornerback, starting over recruited scholarship players, as Pruitt did a day-to-day turnover of the secondary depth chart. Whether it’s sending a message to the veterans or not, Davis has been the beneficiary.
“He’s a pretty good athlete,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said of the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Davis. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen on Saturday, I don’t know what’s going to happen with them, but I know he’s been working his butt off this spring.”
There are always spring sensations, players who you never hear from once the season starts. David could end up being one. But he has a story that lends credence to being more than a typical walk-on.
As a sophomore at Locust Grove in Luella, Davis was being recruited by SEC and ACC schools. Georgia wasn’t among those offering a scholarship, but Davis said the Bulldogs did visit him. But he tore his ACL the March before his junior year. He later had a setback, suffering another partial tear. So he missed practically all of his final two seasons.
Davis didn’t play in another game until the final game of his senior year, and that was at receiver. He told his coaches before the game he only felt comfortable at receiver.
So if he were to see the field this fall, it would be the first time in four years he had played cornerback during a real football game.
“He makes pretty good plays on the ball,” Jenkins said. “He doesn’t bite the fakes and stuff like that. He’s been playing pretty good. He’s been working hard during mats, and I’m glad to see him getting some recognition for it.”
Davis said he had offers after his senior year, but it was only from Division II and Division III schools. He always wanted to go to Georgia, so he jumped at the chance to be a preferred walk-on.
“The way I look at it, if I didn’t get the injuries, I probably still would have pushed my hardest to come here,” he said. “So I’m still ending up at the school I really wanted to be.”
Georgia’s spring game is Saturday. Davis may or may not still be a first-teamer. And come fall, it will be even more difficult, when highly-touted freshmen like Malkom Parrish arrive.
But for now, Davis has served his purpose for Pruitt. “As long as I continue to do whatever has impressed him thus far,” Davis said, “I feel like I can maintain myself up there.”