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Behind the scenes: How love fuels Jordan Davis' journey at Georgia

Each week, before manhandling grown men for three hours every Saturday, Jordan Davis seeks out his mom.

He finds his mother, Shay Allen, in the stands before each Georgia football game. The two embrace, cherishing the rare moments they spend together in person.

They give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed on their life. Allen always takes some time to reflect on the journey that has led them both to this point.

Allen remembers Jordan as a high schooler, yet the man of the house as he took care of his two younger brothers, Donovan and Yashua, when his mother had to work. She thinks back to the relentless recruiting of Georgia coach Tray Scott, who saw something in Davis few other defensive line coaches did.

By remembering where they came from, Allen and Davis are that much more thankful for where they are today. And where they’re going.

“Always think about where you came from, think about where you are presently,” Allen said. “Just make sure you never look back. Sometimes, you’ve got to keep the past in hindsight to just keep propelling you to keep making moves further from your past. That’s pretty much what I pray.”

Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) during the senior day ceremony before the Bulldogs’ game against Charleston Southern on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles/UGA Sports Communications)
Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) during the senior day ceremony before the Bulldogs’ game against Charleston Southern on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles/UGA Sports Communications)

The man of the house

Allen raised Jordan Davis on her own. She described her eldest son as “quiet, easy-going, sweet,” while adding he had his “typical boy” characteristics, like playing outside. Davis also loved reading, particularly the Percy Jackson and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Davis also had a close relationship with his grandmother, Allen’s mother Montrina Spears. Allen worked at the sheriff’s office at the time, so Davis sometimes spent extended periods of time with his grandmother in Dunn, North Carolina.

“She lived in the country, eastern Carolina,” Allen said. “It’s in the country; he can ride a lawnmower down the street, that type of thing.”

That country boy still resides somewhere within Davis. When he met with the media on Nov. 15, he sported a pair of camouflage crocs. He’s also a frequent shopper at Bass Pro Shops.

Spears had a reputation in her hometown of being a kind and caring soul. She served as a pastor and always came through to lend a helping hand, sometimes according to Allen, even to a fault.

Still, there was always time to dote over her grandson. Allen had been her youngest child, and when her baby had a baby of her own, she treated that child with all the love a North Carolina grandmother can give.

“My mom loved him to death,” Allen said. “There was nothing I could do. If Jordan wasn’t comfortable, it’s a problem.”

Davis lost his grandmother in the fourth grade. Allen said his grandmother’s death hit her son hard. The grieving process lasted for months and years, but her kind spirit lives on in her grandson. He’s one of the most active Bulldogs in terms of community service.

Also in middle school, Davis became a big brother. Allen gave birth to Donovan in 2011. Yashua followed two years later.

While still just a child himself, Davis stepped seamlessly into the man-of-the-house role. He picked them up from daycare and babysat them on the weekends as his mother worked a second job to supplement her income as a teacher. Occasionally, Davis volunteered his services when he knew his mother needed a break.

Davis stepped up when his family needed him. He grew into the mature and outgoing person he is today. On the football field, signs of his promising future were beginning to show as well.


Finding his family

Allen didn’t mince words with her son.

Early on, she had better things to do besides going to Davis’s games only to see him sit on the bench. Allen told Davis, then a sophomore, to let her know when he’d see the field.

By the third or fourth game of that sophomore season, Davis had cracked the rotation. He soon drew the attention of the defensive line coach at North Carolina.

Then an assistant for the Tar Heels, Tray Scott gave Davis his first collegiate offer. He made no secret of how bad he wanted to coach the big kid from Charlotte.

“He called me often,” Allen said. “I’m like, Lord have mercy. I see his name, I was like, ‘Lord, I’m going to talk to him later.’ But he kept calling. He didn’t die down, he didn’t give up. He showed perseverance.”

In January 2017, Scott took a job at Ole Miss and offered Davis there. One month later, he came to Athens as the new defensive line coach for Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs.

Throughout this process, Allen did her research on Scott. She had to look into all of Davis’s prospective future coaches. After all, she couldn’t just pass her son into the hands of anyone who didn’t have his best interests at heart.

She didn’t love Scott jumping from school to school so quickly. Still, her “unofficial background check” showed her what type of person Scott is.

“He had a wife, he had a family on the way,” Allen said. “It was just certain things that I was looking for. I know he’s close to his mom. He had a similar upbringing like Jordan has with a father not there, and all of the struggles that go through that. It kind of made me relate a little bit.”

After growing up without a father, Davis had found that strong male role model in his life. Allen described the relationship her son formed with Scott as an “older brother.”

Scott continued to recruit Davis. Persistently. There were other schools involved, but none matched the positive vibes Georgia presented to Allen and her four-star son.

On Nov. 16, 2017, Davis committed to Georgia. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Georgia had just landed its next superstar defender, thanks to the unbreakable bond between Davis and Scott.

“I think that’s what kids need in the first place is a person who’s consistently in their life,” Allen said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happening, you get on their nerves, and you probably want to choke them out and everything, but they’re still there the next day. You’re mad yesterday, but tomorrow, the next day, you’re still there. I think it was about that. That’s what really creates a bond, when somebody’s going to stick with you through everything, and they’re still going to be there on your side.”


'Dawg for life'

Davis’s first year at Georgia didn’t come easy. He didn’t see a ton of playing time early in the year, and he missed his mother and family back home.

Yet as the season went on, Davis felt more at home in Athens. He adopted that same high school sophomore mindset as when his mother told him she didn’t want to come see him sit on the bench. Through hard work in practice, he steadily worked his way up the Bulldog depth chart.

“You stick with it,” Allen said. “You don’t like the playing time, you work your ass off and you get some playing time. The person that’s ahead of you, you knock them out. Either you’re going to want it or you don’t. if you don’t get where you want to be, it’s because you didn’t want it bad enough. That’s always how I treated Jordan.”

“You don’t like the playing time, you work your ass off and you get some playing time. The person that’s ahead of you, you knock them out."
— Shay Allen, mother of Jordan Davis

Davis finished his freshman season in 2018 with 25 total tackles, earning four starts along the way. Older players such as Tyler Clark, Julian Rochester, David Marshall, and Michael Barnett took him under their wing.

Over the next two seasons, Davis became a fixture in the middle of Georgia’s defense. He registered 36 total tackles over those two years while also commanding double teams that freed up the Bulldog linebackers to make plays.

After his junior season in 2020, Davis had a decision to make. He could either go to the NFL Draft, where his stock was good but not great, or return to Athens for his senior season.

Allen and her son discussed the pros and cons of leaving early. While Allen told Davis she supported him either way, she did note the potential of enhanced stock if Davis played a full, healthy season.

Davis then called up his buddy Devonte Wyatt, another Bulldog with a draft decision to make.

“I was like, ‘I’m thinking about coming back, what are you doing?’” Davis said. “He was like, ‘I think I’m going to come back.’ I was like, all right, let’s do it.”

The relationship between Davis and Wyatt is deeper than that of just two teammates. They’re inseparable on and off the field. They run to each other when they have problems. When Davis felt down and needed to talk with someone one night in November, he went straight to see Wyatt.

“That’s my brother. You don’t really come in here expecting that,” Davis said. “That just kind of tells you about the relationship with this team. We think of it, this year has been a connection, but we really don’t call it connection. We call it love, because that’s how it is on the team and in the locker room is love.”

That love also extends back home to his two younger brothers. Davis calls them as often as he can, although Donovan and Yashua’s iPad time is doled out sparingly. Both Davis and his brothers are very excited to be reunited for Christmas.

“I can’t wait to spend some time with Jordan without his fans around,” Allen recalled Donovan saying.

Davis said it’s been hard not being there to watch his brothers grow up. The occasional “I love you” or “I’m so proud of you” means the world to him when he speaks with them.

Back in Athens, Davis’s fame and popularity have skyrocketed to levels not even his mother could have expected. He’s grown into arguably the best defensive lineman in college football, even generating some Heisman Trophy buzz. Davis has improved his conditioning and kept his weight in check in order for him to be a three-down player, and the results are showing on the field.

Through 11 games, Davis has registered 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. He had also posted nine quarterback hurries, showcasing his improved capabilities as a pass rusher.

In a media session leading up to his senior day on Nov. 20, Davis told reporters Georgia isn’t for everyone. The grind is tough and the coaching is hard.

“People say pressure builds diamonds or busts pipes,” Davis said. “I want to be the one that creates diamonds in this situation.”

Davis could have turned into a busted pipe many times through the years. His journey to an early NFL Draft pick has not been easy, nor has it been straightforward. That path could have come to an end, but it didn’t.

Instead, Davis has turned into the glittering diamond in perhaps Georgia’s best defense ever. His family has been there every step of the way, from the blood relationships of his mother and brothers to the unbreakable bonds forged with his teammates.

Just like the struggles of the past, that love will propel Davis into a promising future.

“Loyalty is real here. It’s really deep in my aspect, my life. I’m loyal to the places that are loyal to me. Georgia’s always been there for me no matter what, even throughout my recruiting process. They’ve always been there; Coach Scott’s always been there,” Davis said. “It’s just one of those things—when you’re a Dawg, you’re a Dawg for life.”

Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) during the Bulldogs’ game against Missouri on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles/UGA Sports Communications)
Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) during the Bulldogs’ game against Missouri on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles/UGA Sports Communications)