Jamal Davis II of Canton is back in the NFL after one year in the CFL and hoping to stay

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Los Angeles Chargers outside linebackers Jamal Davis II, left, talks with Joey Bosa walking off the field after drills at the team's practice facility in Costa Mesa, Calif., Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Los Angeles Chargers outside linebackers Jamal Davis II, left, talks with Joey Bosa walking off the field after drills at the team's practice facility in Costa Mesa, Calif., Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

COSTA MESA — Jamal Davis II is back where he wants to be. Back in the NFL. He hopes to remain there.

After playing one season in the Canadian Football League, Davis signed with the Los Angeles Chargers on Jan. 25. The Canton native had never been to California before signing with the Chargers but settled in once he went inside the facility.

“The first impression was amazing,” Davis said. “It felt great when I first came here. It felt great and it felt right.”

Davis, 26, will be entering his second season in the NFL if he makes the 53-man roster. He is no stranger to minor setbacks and adjustments. He's dealt with those before.

Davis was a standout linebacker at McKinley High School.  At 6-foot-3 215 pounds, he had a strong senior campaign which led him to get more than a dozen Division I  college offers.

Jamal Davis II makes a big hit for the McKinley Bulldogs during his senior season.
Jamal Davis II makes a big hit for the McKinley Bulldogs during his senior season.

He settled on Pittsburgh, but after one season, he made a U-turn back to Northeast Ohio and transferred to Akron. Due to the NCAA transfer rule, he then sat out a season.

Catching the eye of NFL scouts as an Akron Zip

At the time, Davis was a scout player when Terry Bowden, the former Zips head coach, and his defensive staff took notice of him when he lined up at defensive end. Davis was impressive enough that he switched to the position full time. Another decision that took him to the next level.

“Jamal Davis is a hand on the ground, beat you off the line of scrimmage guy that has a freaky twitch," Bowden said. "His first step, I said freaky, because it’s phenomenal. He has that incredible first step to get off that line of scrimmage faster than most guys can, and that’s a high commodity in the NFL.“

Akron defensive end Jamal Davis II (9) and defensive back Denzel Butler (13) celebrate at the end of their upset of Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Akron won 39-34.
Akron defensive end Jamal Davis II (9) and defensive back Denzel Butler (13) celebrate at the end of their upset of Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Akron won 39-34.

Bowden, who is now the head coach at Louisiana-Monroe, makes strong comparisons to former NFL defensive ends who were undersized. Hall of Famer Jason Taylor, a 1990s Akron Zip star, and former Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney came to mind when he thought about Davis. He thinks Davis could do well in the league not as an every-down player, but as a rotational pass rush specialist because of his traits.

“I think he has to find his niche ... (to showcase) his ability to cause disruption in the backfield," Bowden said.

McKinley High School athletics: Thom McDaniels, Jim Tressel kept trying to tell him. Tim Jackson admits he should have listened.

Davis played 26 games at Akron, recording 149 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, six pass deflections, an interception and a forced fumble. NFL scouts started paying attention. He tested well at the NFL Combine with a 4.6 40 time and 39-inch vertical to further get the attention of NFL teams.

University of Akron defensive lineman Jamal Davis does the three-cone drill during the 2019 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)
University of Akron defensive lineman Jamal Davis does the three-cone drill during the 2019 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

He went undrafted in 2019 but was picked up by the Houston Texans but waived in September of that year. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts, never appeared in a game, before playing three games in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins in 2019. Davis doesn't know for sure why it didn’t work out the first time in the NFL. But did have an idea his weight might have something to do with it. Davis was undersized as an edge rusher. He's added around 15 pounds since college.

The Chargers list Davis at 6-4, 252 pounds.

“The first time around, you come to the league, you worked so hard to get there, a lot of stuff blindsides you, and I feel it was just the weight," Davis II said. "That’s really of it. Other than that, I really don’t know, but you have to build yourself back to full strength.”

Texans linebacker Jamal Davis II closes in on Los Angeles Rams quarterback Brandon Allen in a preseason game, Aug. 29, 2019, in Houston.
Texans linebacker Jamal Davis II closes in on Los Angeles Rams quarterback Brandon Allen in a preseason game, Aug. 29, 2019, in Houston.

Jamal Davis II makes his mark in CFL with Montreal

After getting cut by the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns during the 2020 season, Davis made a name for himself in the CFL after signing with Montreal Alouettes for the 2021 season.

Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman Jamal Davis II (99) celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble for a touchdown during the first quarter of a CFL game at IG Field, Nov. 6, 2021, in Winnipeg.
Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman Jamal Davis II (99) celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble for a touchdown during the first quarter of a CFL game at IG Field, Nov. 6, 2021, in Winnipeg.

He appeared in nine games, making 17 total tackles, including four sacks. He also scored a defensive touchdown.

Two of those sacks were back-to-back against Ottawa.

“It was a great move for me. One of the amazing moves for me,” Davis said. “It was different because you have to play a yard off the ball, the field is wider. But it was a great plus for me and I’m glad that I did it.”

Montreal Alouettes defensive linesman Jamal Davis II (99) tackles Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the third quarter during a CFL game, Oct. 22, 2021, at Molson Stadium, in Montreal.
Montreal Alouettes defensive linesman Jamal Davis II (99) tackles Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the third quarter during a CFL game, Oct. 22, 2021, at Molson Stadium, in Montreal.

Jamal Davis II built the same as another former McKinley Bulldog

If all goes well, Davis will be one of two former McKinley Bulldogs playing in the NFL this fall.

Dominique Robinson is a rookie trying to earn a roster spot with the Chicago Bears.

Davis and Robinson share some things in common — starring in college at Mid-American Conference schools after position changes — but with some minor differences. While they graduated two years apart at McKinley, they never played with each other. At the time Davis was a Bulldog star, Robinson was still at Timken before the school merged with McKinley.

During the 2018 season, Robinson and Davis took a picture together after Akron played Robinson's Miami RedHawks. Someone pointed out that the two McKinley grads were built to the same. And Robinson eventually switched from wide receiver to defensive end. The Chicago Bears drafted Robinson in the fifth round in April.

“I’m just realizing that he could play d-end. He has the body for it. Kind of similar to me because I was playing linebacker,” Davis said. “We could’ve had the same approach. Things were or weren’t going his way where he was and with his speed and power, it worked out for him. He should do good up there. You know, Canton, Ohio people have to stick together, so I’m really happy for him.“

Jamal Davis gets chance to learn from stars Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa in San Diego

Davis' primary focus now is doing what he can to impress the Chargers. He has the chance to work with some top-tier edge players such as Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Playing behind those two could help his game as tries to make the 53-man roster.

"Learning from those guys is going to be amazing," Davis II said. "My expectation is always to be the best I can be for the team, and whatever they need me to do, I will do, but you always want to be great, always give it your best.”

Los Angeles Chargers outside linebackers Jamal Davis II, left, talks with Joey Bosa walking off the field after drills at the team's practice facility in Costa Mesa, Calif., Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Los Angeles Chargers outside linebackers Jamal Davis II, left, talks with Joey Bosa walking off the field after drills at the team's practice facility in Costa Mesa, Calif., Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: McKinley grad Jamal Davis II back in NFL after a year in CFL