For Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither, one of the top linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft, being drafted by the Ravens sounds like a great opportunity to start a professional career.
“My idol is Ray Lewis, so that would mean the world to me … to suit up for the Ravens and be able to take a step in his shoes,” Davis-Gaither said on Glenn Clark Radio April 7, adding that “it would be an awesome experience.”
Davis-Gaither began to play more like his idol at Thomasville High School in his native North Carolina after a position switch.
“I started off in high school as a safety, then they moved me down as a linebacker,” he said.
The switch paid off. The 6-foot-1, 224-pound Mountaineer is now preparing for the draft after a pair of spectacular seasons at Appalachian State. He earned second-team and first-team All-Sun Belt selections in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and won the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019 as well.
Davis-Gaither finished his college career with 258 tackles (28 for loss), eight sacks, 18 passes defensed (one interception) and two forced fumbles. He also blocked a field goal to seal a win at North Carolina in 2019.
With impact players like Calias Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe standing as the first line of defense against opposing offenses, the Ravens’ defense becomes very appealing to players like Davis-Gaither. He was an outside linebacker at Appalachian State but would project as an inside linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme.
“Oh, it’d be awesome,” he said on playing behind the Ravens’ defensive line.
The Ravens are thin at inside linebacker after the departure of Patrick Onwuasor to the New York Jets, so drafting a talented linebacker may be essential, especially with the team’s tight cap situation. But if he’s drafted by one of the other 31 teams, Davis-Gaither wouldn’t have a problem trying to run down reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson.
“I don’t scare away from a challenge,” Davis-Gaither said.
But Davis-Gaither made clear it’d be nice being teammates with Jackson. The Ravens went 14-2 in the regular season last year with Jackson and are looking to continue the pursuit of a third Super Bowl title. Davis-Gaither sees Baltimore as a good opportunity for him to start competing for a Super Bowl right away.
“That would mean the world. I come from a winning program, so I definitely want to keep that going in the right direction,” Davis-Gaither said of the possibility of playing for the Ravens next season.
While starting his career with one of the league’s best teams could fast-track Davis-Gaither to a chance at a Super Bowl ring, he has no problem working hard for what he wants. He came to Appalachian State as a two-star high school recruit and developed into well-regarded draft prospect.
“My four, five years at App I definitely evolved into the player I am, so I definitely got better as time went on, but coming out of high school I think my size scared away a lot of colleges,” Davis-Gaither said. “I was 175 [pounds] playing linebacker, so a lot of schools didn’t want to take a chance on that.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis-Gaither will have a different draft experience than most players are used to, but he says he isn’t going to have a big party. He just wants to be with his close family and 2-year-old daughter Camilla.
“I was going to be low key about it … and just wait for the phone call,” Davis-Gaither said.
With around two weeks until the draft, Davis-Gaither is getting closer to hearing that phone ring. He sees himself as the best inside linebacker in the draft and hopes teams can see why he thinks that.
“It’s my instincts, my ability to track down the ball,” Davis-Gaither said. “Nobody ever beats me to the ball consistently — I’m just a playmaker.”
For more from Davis-Gaither, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of App State Athletics