Weeks before selecting Demario Davis in the third round of April's NFL draft, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan saw a hint of a future Hall of Famer in the unheralded prospect from Arkansas State.
"Wow. ... This is amazing. He reminds me of Ray (Lewis)," Ryan said, according to The Star-Ledger, after meeting with Davis and general manager Mike Tannenbaum at the Jets' team facility.
Ryan, who coached Lewis for four years in Baltimore, made his comparison public after the Jets' first rookie minicamp this weekend. He made it clear he wasn't equating Davis with the Ravens' All-Pro linebacker, but he said Davis' passion, mannerisms and how he looked him in the eyes made it seem as though it was Lewis who was in the room with him.
Ryan told reporters that Davis (6-feet-2, 239 pounds) will be expected to be a "major contributor" and at first should see time on sub packages on a defense that showed signs of aging last season. But Davis' on-the-field abilities weren't the only reason the Jets drafted him, as Ryan sees a Lewis-like leadership quality in the rookie.
"As a coach, you try to cultivate the environment, no question about it," Ryan said. "But when you really have it is when your players take it. I think he's going to be one of those guys, fit right in with David Harris, and Sione (Pouha) and Mike DeVito. This is their football team."
Ryan added: "Like Tom Brady in New England. Tom Brady runs that team. He runs it, runs the discipline. Runs everything."