Being from Asotin, Jesse Davis isn’t used to the humidity in Miami. He’s uncertain he ever will be.
Adjusting time and again — it’s just how it goes for the Dolphins’ utility man, now an NFL veteran and mainstay on the offensive line, where he’s moved about as needed. One might say it signifies his value.
Consistent comfortability simply hasn’t been in the nature of the former Panthers state champion and University of Idaho defensive tackle.
“In years past, I’ve been the swing, been able to play all kinds of different positions, but I don’t know where it came from,” said Davis of his most recent position change, from right guard to right tackle. “I think (the coaches) wanted me to solve a problem. They came in, said, ‘Hey, you’re right tackle.’ I said, ‘Well, OK,’ and that was that.
“It’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun.”
Basically, like the entirety of the 27-year-old’s past four years, which have seen him bounce around a couple of training camps before bursting back onto the NFL scene and becoming a seasoned voice in the locker room. He’d come close to dropping football and settling for a farm-equipment job in Garfield after team No. 1 — Seattle — waived him in 2015.
“It was putting my nose to the grindstone, facing failures and not letting it happen, not being OK with failing,” said Davis, who Miami grabbed as a practice-squad addition in November 2016.
For his troubles, Davis got paid Saturday. The 2015 UI grad and second-year full-blown starter in Miami’s trenches could be seen on a Dolphins social media video sporting a Vandals hat, signing a three-year extension that’ll pay him $15 million, with $8.5 million fully guaranteed.
It’s a gratifying episode in a “wild ride” of a series, which began with an initial goal, now far surpassed — just to make a practice squad.
“Then that happened, and I started to get better — working a lot with coaches — and it started becoming a reality,” Davis said. “A lot of it was luck, when you think about injuries that happen in front of you. But I got in, and I’m like, ‘Man, I can actually keep up with these guys.’
“I didn’t think I’d be able to, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would’ve been.”
That was in the 2017 preseason, when Miami’s offensive line was devastated by injuries and Davis climbed up the depth chart. Good thing too, because that’s also when it “started to click.”
And it’s continued to do so despite Davis’ constant shifting. In ’17, he became one of only five Dolphins ever to start at three positions on the O-line in the same season.
In 2018, he played all 920 of the season’s offensive snaps at right guard. Now, he’ll be just a few feet to the right when the Dolphins open their season at home at 10 a.m. Pacific today against Baltimore.
But the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder is all right with his role as a Swiss-Army-Knife hog. He’s been soaking in the intricacies he’s already somewhat familiar with, given his background, which includes a two-year stint as the Vandals’ strong tackle — he was a defensive tackle for two years before, but injuries forced that fateful flip.
“I’m playing the same side, so it’s really not that big of an issue,” he said. “It just takes lots of reps to understand the angles of the D-ends in terms of pass rush, and your technique is just gonna be a little wider.
“Gotta think you’re the guy there for a reason, so act like it, play like it. It’s a mindset thing.”
A positive outlook — and “being the good guy” — can make a world of difference. Davis said that’s what he strives for: Connecting with the youth, the higher-ups and making himself a valuable asset who learns and adjusts on the fly.
“Just be likable, be someone the organization wants around,” he said. “There wasn’t a secret recipe, it’s more so your character.”
It’s a sunnier disposition now, being cemented as a Miami pillar who some young players have sought out for advice. His worries of finding his place in the league are all but faded, and he can now hone in on technical aspects.
“Now you’re thinking, ‘I know I’m gonna make it, it’s just time to work,’” Davis said. “It’s definitely more fun to come in (to camp) that way than the other way.”
It’s worked out, but if he had advice to give to his younger self?
“Don’t get hurt; wear your knee brace,” Davis said.
During Seahawks camp, he suffered a high-ankle sprain on the same leg he’d hurt (ACL) as a junior at Idaho. He was cut afterward.
It wasn’t long before he was back, making memories on his favorite field, Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium — because of surplus jumbotrons, he can assess himself in-game — and naturally, he’ll never forget the Miami Miracle, when the Dolphins upended New England with a lateral and no time on the clock.
“We weren’t sure what the receivers were even doing. We never worked it with the skill players — they worked this special play — so we’re thinking, ‘Oh, we’re just gonna throw it down the field,’” Davis said, laughing when talking about the play’s disarray that turned to delight. “That was a super special day.”
Yet, Davis’ small-town origins remain integral. He’s married to a former Panther, Ashley (nee Proctor), and the two live a relatively quiet life with their two dogs in Fort Lauderdale. He also still credits the Asotin crew of Jim Holman, Sal Lopez and Rick Wilcox — and past UI boss Robb Akey — for “giving me my shot, pushing me to be better, helping me get through high school, get to college and get through that.
“I’m proud to be from a small town, and to have made it this far, it’s awesome,” he said. “I had to believe in myself. ... Turn my mindset into reality.”