FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – When Kellen Davis was a rookie with the Chicago Bears in 2008, teammate and fellow tight end Desmond Clark was set to enter his tenth year in the league. But even though the Bears had taken Davis in the fifth round of the NFL Draft to eventually be Clark's replacement, the veteran didn't mind.
In fact, he imparted wisdom and advice to Davis who eagerly soaked it up.
Clark had put together a respectable career at the point when Davis, a wide-eyed rookie, rolled into camp with the Bears (Clark would eventually retire in 2010).. He was a solid-professional with a good work ethic and an equally impressive reputation by that point in his career. So in Davis he saw someone to groom, to show the ropes and help.
For his part, the rookie was only to eager to learn from someone so established in the league. Now in the summer of 2015, it is a role that Davis now plays with the New York Jets, who have an offensive coordinator in Chan Gailey who likes to utilize the tight end.
The scenario is different here as Davis was brought into the Jets as a free agent with two other viable tight ends already on the roster. But even though he is the new face in the locker room, that hasn't slowed him down from mentoring second-year tight end Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland. Both are players still learning and growing in their careers, who could use the brotherly advice of Davis.
“Early on in my career, I had Des Clark with me. He helped me pretty much learn the game. If I ever get a chance to, I try to pass down what I know. I think you should pay it forward,” Davis said last week.
“This is not my first group of [young players]. Some of them get it, some of them don't. It's not for everybody. But Jace wants it, he wants to be a great player.”
But Davis isn't just here to be a mentor. Currently, he is the second tight end on the depth chart after what has been a very solid training camp., putting him ahead of Amaro. He was signed, in his words, because “Chan wants me to be a good blocker, which I've been throughout this career.”
But he is more than just a blocker, even though he has just three receptions since the start of the 2013 season.
In 2012, he had 19 catches and the year before that he pulled in 18 passes. They aren't gaudy numbers but from a tight end group that has struggled to find consistency since the Dustin Keller era, it could well end up being a big help.
“Over my career when I was really at my best before I started putting on weight, I was really good in the pass game, just didn't get many opportunities,” Davis said. “Now I'm kind of dropping weight back down, I'm feeling good, running good. Hopefully it gets picked back up. I've been catching balls out here pretty well.”
Since the end of last season, Davis has dropped 15 pounds. He lost the weight so he could feel better and is down to eight percent body fat. He didn't do it for any other reason than just to feel better and be at his more natural weight.
As for his role as a mentor, he takes it seriously. Davis will stay and work with the young tight ends after practice as he spends time catching balls out of the machine or working on some technique. He tends to be a bit quiet in the locker room, content to sit quietly on the stool outside his space, checking his cell phone or quietly musing. It is the presence of someone who has proven himself in the NFL.
He remembers Clark, now retired, and the time he invested in him personally. He even remembers one of the 'Clark-isms' passed down from his mentor.
“Don't ever get tackled on the one-yard line,” Davis said with a grin.
A couple weeks later, he says, Clark got tackled and fumbled on the goal line.
“I'll never let him forget it,” Davis said.
He hopes the Jets tight ends don't forget him either but for other reasons.