Quick, name the Packer who is rated in the top three at his position in the NFL, made his NFL debut as a Chicago Bear on Monday Night Football, and was once a bodyguard for Dennis Rodman?
Could have spotted you the photo with this story and chances are you still might not have got the correct answer. Why? Because Rob Davis fits all the aforementioned criteria, but the less you hear his name mentioned during the game the better. You see Davis excels at the most unheralded position in the NFL - long snapper.
True, he doesn't have to line up forty-five yards away from the goal posts trying to win a game on his kick in the waning seconds like Ryan Longwell. But did you ever notice how the ball always seems to get to the holder in the right place at the right time as if the transaction was almost automatic? That's where Davis comes in. His job is to make sure that the ball makes it from the line of scrimmage to the holder perfectly, every time.
One mistake by Davis and you, your mom, and that diehard with his chest painted next to you all know the consequences: the Packers blew their chance to score. Davis is called in to perform on fourth down which means there are no second chances, one mistake and the ball is turned over to the opposition.
He's not just responsible for fieldgoals, he has to change his snap to get the ball to punter Josh Bidwell too. Watching the punter running for his life from three hundred pound linemen with no blockers makes good material for a football follies video, but does not help the Packers win football games. But in all honesty, how may times have you seen that here in the last four years?
Now you better quash that next thought right now. You're thinking 'he's just on special teams, he lives the easy life, he's not out there grounding it out in the trenches for sixty minuets.' Well try being one of the best at your position and still have to fight for a job every year come training camp.
"It's tougher now with the 53-man rosters, salaries and stuff like that, but out of the 31 teams I'd say probably over 20 have just pure snappers," Davis said.
That means that not even every team has a guy playing his position so he has to impress every time out to prove that his trade is worth the attention of a specialist. Davis has been through his fair share of struggles just getting into the league. A defensive lineman in college he landed a free agent tryout in 1993 with the New York Jets. It was there were he decided to devote his attention to long snapping instead of playing on the defensive line.
"One scout told me early on that my abilities would probably only take me as far as college at the d-line position, " Davis said. "He said 'you have a pretty good skill at long snapper, if you can hone that you may have an opportunity to get a job in this league.'"
After getting cut three more times Davis landed on the Packers doorstep. Prior to his arrival in Titletown, the Washington, DC native made his playing debut with the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in 1996. After being cut at the end of training camp the next season the Packers promptly picked up Davis to fill the need on special teams.
Surely Davis crafted his trade at a Division one powerhouse where he was constantly called upon to snap with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, right? Unless Penn State relocated from State College to Shippensburg, Pa. then that's definitely not the case. In the 110-year history of Shippensburg University, Davis is the only player ever to make it to the NFL level. How's that for something to put on your resume?
"It's a nice conversation piece, but it just goes to show you if the talent is there it doesn't really matter what school you go to," Davis said. "We had some guys in the past and in the early years who got tryouts, but were just never able to land (a roster spot). It's been a 110-years now and I'm still the lone soldier. I'm sure one day they'll get another player."
Even getting to the collegiate football level was no easy task for Davis. A year following graduation from high school a friend had convinced the coaches to get Davis to come up and tryout as a walk-on. He was only a scholarship player when he was a senior and even then it was a partial scholarship. He worked somewhere around eight jobs -- from landscaping to bartending to excavating -- to pay his way through school.
Davis became enamored with the college atmospheres so much so that he would eventually like to become a university dean after his playing career.
"I'm sort of a people person." Davis said. "If I can tell my story of perseverance and the adversity I've gone through in my lifetime and if maybe I can reach one or two guys who may be having some of those same problems at a young enough age then maybe they will be able to overcome some of those same things that I went through."
Know I know you've had that whole Dennis Rodman bodyguard thing in the back of your mind the whole time, is it really true? Yes, but the rest of that story will just have to wait for another day, because we're running out of space. Maybe if enough number 60 shirts start popping up in the crowd the media will be more inclined to pick the mind of one of the most down-to-earth and level-headed guys you'll ever see in an NFL locker room. For now if you see him walking around at least thank him for sparing us the sight of Bidwell trying to throw downfield in the face of five unblocked Baltimore Ravens. I'm pretty sure number nine will be thanking him too.