Former MSU star Davis refuses to let ruptured Achilles derail NFL dream

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Felton Davis was projected as a mid-round NFL pick entering his senior year until he was felled by a ruptured Achilles tendon in MSU’s game against Michigan Oct. 20.

Indianapolis — For at least two days, Felton Davis said he just sat in his room.

No phone calls. No messages. Mostly just staring at the ceiling, trying to come to grips with his college career being over and his future in the NFL no longer seeming like a given.

A ruptured Achilles suffered on Oct. 20 — against Michigan, no less — ended his senior season at Michigan State and forced the normally jovial Davis into a funk.

“The first thing that went through my head is I just let my team down over something I couldn’t control,” Davis said Friday at the NFL Combine. “I got real emotional about that because everything I had I put into this last season at Michigan State and I didn’t come out slacking. I put everything I had into it.

“That was my first time being down and sad. But like I said, for the first couple days I didn’t leave my room — just didn’t want to be bothered. I just had to get over the fact that it happened. After that I realized you can’t just dwell on that and you have to go back to your roots and who you are.”

Who Davis is — besides a potential NFL draft pick — is one of the most upbeat people you’ll ever meet. Outside of those first couple of days when roommate Darrell Stewart would periodically check on him, it’s hard to find a time when the 6-foot-3 native of Richmond, Virginia, isn’t lighting up the room.

It’s that same mentality he’s embraced since those first few days of feeling sorry for himself. By Oct. 26 he was having surgery in North Carolina with renowned foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson and from there it’s been full speed ahead.

He was back in East Lansing a week after surgery and got back in the meeting rooms, helping his young teammates. He accompanied the team to San Francisco for the Redbox Bowl matchup with Oregon, then headed home to Richmond to begin his recovery.

He began jogging a couple of weeks ago and is set to push himself to be ready for NFL training camp toward the end of the summer, something he says Anderson told him is reasonable.

That’s all Davis needed to hear.

“I will be ready, 100 percent,” Davis said.

It’s taken time to get to this point, but Davis has clung to a positive approach the entire way and believes he’ll be going full speed in his rehab within the next month or two.

“When it happens, every day is a long tunnel and you don’t see the light,” Davis said. “Constantly, you go through every day and throughout the whole process my days would become brighter. I went from not being able to walk at all on a scooter to being able to walk. You see the change and I started to get happy again.

“Another step was I got out of the boot to my shoe and when I was in California it was an amazing time helping them out, being at practice, just relaxing. Now I’m able to run a little bit. You can see the light again and the way you used to be.”

The question he’s starting to provide answers for this week is whether NFL teams will see him as the player he was before suffering the injury.

As a junior Davis had 55 receptions for 776 yards and nine touchdowns. Entering his senior year, Davis looked like a mid-round pick with a chance to improve that stock in his final season. Through six games in 2018, Davis had 31 grabs for 474 yards and four touchdowns, his last coming in the final seconds to beat Penn State on the road.

A week later, he crumpled to the ground at Spartan Stadium.

“I knew I tore it instantly,” Davis recalled on Friday.

Davis said he will be in Pensacola, Florida, for most of his rehab and will be back in East Lansing on March 18 for Michigan State’s pro day. He likely won’t be running by then, either, but he’s doing whatever he can to prove to teams he can be a difference-maker at the NFL level.

“I believe my film speaks for itself,” Davis said. “Injury or not, the film speaks for itself. Turn on any game and watch and see 18 making plays all over the field.

“I’m still one of the top guys out there, injury or not. … I’m still in the mix.”

How much the injury has affected Davis physically won’t be clear until he gets back on the field. What is clear is that Davis has become stronger mentally through it all.

“The injury kind of changed me to the point where I work harder than anybody out here now,” Davis said. “There’s nobody that’s been put in the position that I was put in and it kind of burns something deep down.

“It’s all mental. It’s just something you’ve got to fight within yourself. That’s the person you’re dealing with, the man in the mirror.”

Davis said he’s met with several teams informally at the combine and the feedback has all been good. He gave them something to talk about on Friday, by completing 21 reps on the bench press, fourth-best among all wide receivers.

How did he manage to pull it off? Likely because he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself, like those two days in his apartment back in October.

“It’s tough. That’s just something that I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” Davis said. “You miss something you’ve been doing all your life and that’s something I wouldn’t want anybody else to go through. It was stripped away but having that positive energy is something I was just raised with. I’ve always been a positive person. So, when you get down at times like that, that’s what I rely on.”

It could all lead to where Davis expected to end up all along — in the NFL.

If his name is called during the Draft April 25-27, the emotion Davis is so free with will, no doubt, come flowing out.

“A dream come true,” Davis described how he’d react. “It’s something we all dreamed about here. I’ll deal with it, but you’ll probably see a grown man cry.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau