Evaluating the Steelers’ 2016 Draft Picks: S Sean Davis

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Sung Min Kim/Testudo Times

Safety Sean Davis was one of the guys I covered in my BLA draft posts. Here’s what I had to say at the time:

One thing we know right off about Davis is he’s smart. He is trilingual, speaking English, French, and Chinese. Not too surprisingly, he’s a communications major. That’s a lot of people he can communicate with right there!

He’s obviously a quick study as well, since he only started playing football as a junior in high school. After playing safety there he was moved to cornerback at Maryland, but projects as a safety in the NFL. He noted in an interview that he is more comfortable at safety.

It turns out that the part about being trilingual isn’t quite correct. Davis noted in a post-draft interview that he only speaks “some” Chinese. “Some” is enough for me, still, if we’re assessing his smarts—not to mention his ear.

One of the difficulties about Chinese is that it is a tonal language. In other words, if you say the exact same set of sounds but at the wrong pitch or inflection level you’ve just said something you didn’t intend to say. This is presumably why only about 1 in 10,000 people in the U.S. have so-called “perfect” pitch, as compared to a much larger percentage of the population in countries with tonal languages—I’ve seen estimates that over half the population has this trait.

I wasn’t able to find out a lot of personal information about Davis when I wrote my article, but naturally a good bit more has emerged since he was drafted. One thing which makes him quite unusual among NFL players is the fact he was home-schooled until high school, which would also explain why he didn’t play football prior to then.

In fact, his parents sacrificed a lot to put him in a private school. He didn’t find it easy, as this wusa9.com article  notes:

“I was probably one of five African American males in my graduating class,” says Sean. “I wasn’t really used to it because I live in a black neighborhood.”

Sean excelled both on the field and in the classroom. His Senior year dozens of Division I schools offered him scholarships to play football; but, he chose Maryland to be close to home for his Dad who was battling cancer and still working two jobs.

His dad is clearly a huge influence in his life. Davis reports his father’s admonitions:

“Did you pray today? Did you max out today? Did you study today? Did you do your extra?” says Davis’ father, also named Sean. “If we do what everyone else does, we’re going to be in the same boat. We’ve got to do things to elevate ourselves so what did you do extra today?”

“He’s my inspiration,” says the younger Sean. “He’s my motivator. I’ve never seen somebody have cancer and still going to two jobs every day.”

“So when I don’t feel like doing my pull ups or something like that,” says Sean, “If I don’t feel like studying, I just always think my dad wouldn’t slack. If he slacks we don’t have anywhere to live.”

Although Davis had been hoping to play for his hometown team, Washington skipped him and the Steelers snapped him up.  He seems to be okay with this. As he told Missi Matthews of Steelers.com:

My emotions have been everywhere. I can’t stop smiling. I am so happy to be here, seeing my new home, my new family. It’s just a blessing.

He also told her he was excited to work with DB coach Carnell Lake:

I love learning from people that have been there. I am ready to learn from one of the greatest out there and contribute. There are things he can teach me that those that didn’t play can’t. He knows he is going to coach to the best of his ability, and ask me to play to the best of mine. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.

i have experience with homeschooling, both from having briefly homeschooled one of my own children and from watching a couple of my siblings and my children homeschool their own kids, and I will say this—anybody who can take instructions from their mother for nine years is going to be a terrific student for a respected coach. If Davis doesn’t learn what he needs to, it won’t be for lack of trying.

I don’t know what the future holds for Davis, although of course I hope it is starting the season opposite Mike Mitchell. But I’m excited to watch this exceptional young man whose motto is “Faith, Family and Football.”

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