Corey Davis' college coach is confident Jets found their WR1: 'He's going to prove it'

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Scott Thompson
·4 min read
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Corey Davis Treated No. 2
Corey Davis Treated No. 2

University of Minnesota co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Matt Simon was just about to put his son to bed when he learned Corey Davis signed a three-year deal with the Jets.

A formal pupil of his at the University of Western Michigan, Simon quickly finished his fatherly duties to congratulate Davis.

Davis had entered the offseason as a free agent and was named one of the best receivers on the market next to the likes of Kenny Golladay and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

But Davis was the first off the board when the news broke that he was headed to New York, and it was a moment Simon knew his former wideout absolutely deserved.

“To know Corey and what he’s been through and his entire story, not just some of the struggles and some things he went through off the field with his brother, happy doesn’t even describe it,” Simon told SNY. “He is just the salt of the earth. He’s one of the best people in the National Football League. He deserves everything coming to him.”

Davis joins the Jets as their top receiver, as GM Joe Douglas drew up this contract believing whomever is quarterbacking the team next year will have a reliable No. 1 option. But over the past couple of seasons, Davis didn’t own that title himself during his time with the Tennessee Titans. A.J. Brown was the top dog there.

And because of Brown’s rise into that role mixed with a so-so 2019 campaign , the Titans decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on Davis’ contract. Their fifth overall pick in 2017 -- not extended.

When Simon heard that news, he once again dropped what he was doing and texted Davis. He wasn’t shocked by the answer he got.

“I don’t know if he’ll want me sharing this or not, but I had asked him because at the time Tennessee hadn’t renewed his fifth-year option and I just hit him up and said, ‘Hey, keep your head up. You have bigger things ahead. Bet on yourself. Go do it. Go prove it to yourself,’ Simon explained. “And his response was, ‘Yeah, they will regret it. I promise you that.’

“That’s just his mindset. It wasn’t any ill-will. It was, ‘I’m going to prove it to everyone in this organization. I’m going to prove it to everyone around the league that I am a No. 1 receiver.’ He wants those types of challenges, and instead of getting down and out, it was step up and let’s go.”

The challenge was accepted and Davis won, hauling in 65 receptions for 984 yards and five touchdowns. It was the type of production Simon was used to seeing after witnessing one of the greatest wide receiver careers in college football from Davis. He had 5,278 total yards in four seasons with 52 touchdowns, including 19 in his senior year, which led to such a high draft choice.

But, as Simon alluded to, last season’s success wasn’t met without some obstacles -- the most public was the death of his older brother, Titus. He was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer in July 2020 and died on Nov. 11, 2020.

Davis had a Thursday Night Football game to play the next day, and he suited up despite the heartbreak of losing his brother, who was also a wide receiver in the NFL with a few teams, one being the Jets as a practice squad member. Davis caught five of six targets for 67 yards in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Fighting through adversity is something Davis learned how to do at an early age being the second-youngest of seven children. Simon believes that helped him get through situations like these leading up to college and the NFL, and it was evident in that moment.

“Emotion is never wavering. Passion? Very passionate. Competitive, yes. Emotional? No,” Simon said. “I think that’s just one of those things that he’s armored himself with. He knows that when it’s time to go on a football field and cross the white line, it’s time to go.”

Watching Davis go through those situations with a positive outlook and doing what needs to get done every time on the field makes Simon confident that the Jets got the right guy. Is he the No. 1 receiver they’ve been searching for, though? Simon thinks so, but knows Davis won’t say it himself.

He’ll just put the pads on and let his work do the talking.

“He’s going to prove it,” Simon said. “And I’m not just talking about on Sundays or numbers, but he’s going to walk into that locker room and people naturally gravitate towards him because of his mindset, because of his work ethic. He has that belief and attitude that he wants everyone and everything around him better. He’s going to gain and garner instant respect from his teammates because of the way he carries himself, because of the way he works.

“He’s just that kind of pro and that kind of person.”