When it comes to spring training or training camp, one of the most-tired cliches in sports is players talking about being in the best shape of their life. But with Detroit Lions' linebacker Jarrad Davis, the visual evidence is difficult to dispute.
Earlier this offseason, Michigan Elite Sports in Novi posted before and after photos of Davis' physical transformation while working under their guidance. Davis, with above-average athleticism for his position, was already in good shape, but the after photos show a far more muscular linebacker who seriously trimmed his body fat, while managing to pack on nearly 20 pounds of lean muscle to his frame.
Davis started the training regimen on the lighter side. His playing weight is closer to 235 pounds. But after a short rest and recuperation period to start the offseason, he began an aggressive 20-week program to get to where he is now.
"I ate super clean and I just really pushed my body to a limit that hasn't been in a, ever, really," Davis said during a video conference with reporters on Tuesday. "My body has never felt this good. Through those 20 weeks, there were a lot of two-a-days. It took a lot of hard work. A lot of pushing myself to the point where I want to quit almost every single day, and still being resilient, being mentally sharp and focused, and just having the ability to push through the workouts.
"I think that just that mindset of having to push that hard every single day, consistently, is going to help me just stay focused and just be locked in, in pressure situations throughout the season. So, yeah, I made a physical transformation, but I feel like I'm mentally more available, mentally better than I've ever been in my entire life."
Davis did a lot of the work at his home, in his basement gym affectionately dubbed "The Lions Den" by teammate Christian Jones, who joined Davis for daily workouts throughout the spring and early summer.
"Yeah, man, the marquee thing in there is this big picture I bought," Davis said. "It's a big ol' lion, and I just put it down there as a little bit of motivation. It's a really cool picture. We got some weights, got a little squat rack and a little bench, some dumbbells, and bought a couple of hundred pounds of weights. We just went in there and went to work every single day.
"Just being able to go in there and still have a place to really push yourself to the limit and not fall victim to the circumstances that were out there around us, it was awesome," David continued. "It was a good opportunity for us to continue to bond and build our relationship as teammates and brothers, man, it was a good time."
Davis and Jones both played more than 600 defensive snaps for the Lions last season. Only Devon Kennard played more among the linebackers. The team parted ways with Kennard this offseason and brought in former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins to presumably replace many of those reps.
While Davis is going to miss his former teammate, he's thrilled to get a chance to play alongside Collins, a player he's admired from afar.
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"Ever since he was in New England the first time, and still, like he's just been super athletic, man," Davis said. "(He's) just able to do so many things, been making plays in the passing game, dominant rusher. Just watching him, he's super fluid in his movement. Everything. Seeing that guy play is definitely somebody I was like, 'I hope I can make plays like this.'
"Now being in the locker room next to him, like, it's awesome," Davis continued. "I try to keep it cool and be just low key. I've been watching him for a long time and seeing him make plays, just glad to be able to play next to him. "
The Lions had hoped Davis would develop into a dynamic, all-around playmaker like Collins when they selected him in the first round out of Florida in 2017, but it has yet to full come together through three seasons. The team declined the fifth-year option on Davis' rookie deal this offseason, meaning he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next March.