Journey to the draft: Zach Davidson’s path to the NFL

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WEBB CITY, MO. — It’s no secret that the Webb City football program is one of the most dominant in the area.

Of course, a lot of that has to do with head coach John Roderique, but it also has to do with the talent he shapes on the team.

One of Roderique’s players from the class of 2016, Trystan Colon-Castillo, made his NFL debut this past season with the Baltimore Ravens, and now, fellow 2016 graduate Zach Davidson looks to do the same.

The 2021 NFL Draft is just under three weeks away, but Davidson has been preparing for this moment for far longer than that. We now know him as an elite Division II tight end, but his story actually begins with him trying out for punter at Webb City High School.

John Roderique, Webb City head football coach, says, “The first time he kicked, and the ball comes off his foot, I remember looking over at Coach Hicks, like, ‘Okay, get over here, you have a job.'”

Davidson eventually kicked his way to the starting punter position, while also playing tight end. Roderique knew he had something special.

Roderique says, “I remember seeing some of the college coaches on the sidelines, and Chuck looked over at me like, ‘Wow, this kids got a leg.’ The ball just sounded different coming off his foot, I mean he was kicking it into the bleachers at the Dome.”

It was no surprise when Davidson continued his football career at the University of Central Missouri. He started off as just punter.

Zach Davidson, NFL prospect, says, “I never got to play because I was an immediate impact punter, so they didn’t want me to play tight end in games because they didn’t want me to get hurt, they needed me for fourth down.”

He eventually won a starting job at the tight end position.

Jim Svoboda, University of Central Missouri head football coach, says, “It was interesting too in the recruiting process, his dad was pretty emphatic that this kid is more than a punter, and boy was he right. Any time you average 20 yards a catch and are in the top 10 in the country as a tight end, you have legitimate skills.”

The same year he became the starting tight end, Davidson began to recognize that he could potentially take his talent to the NFL.

Davidson says, “I had prepared myself from January 2020 to start meeting with agents, they started reaching out like, ‘Hey, you have a possibility if you have a good spring season or fall season. The opportunity is on the table so you just need to prepare yourself and focusing on getting yourself ready to play.'”

He did just that, declaring for the draft and eventually heading to Florida for physical training.

Davidson says, “I’m training for OTAs, conditioning my body, preparing it to play, because I know once I get into an organization, I’m gonna get a playbook, learn it as fast as I can, really perform in OTAs early on, and get a lot of reps and just trying to prepare my body for that load, mentally and physically as well.”

If you had told Davidson during his high school career that he would make the leap from Cardinal Stadium to the NFL, well, he wouldn’t have believed you.

Davidson says, “I never would’ve told you five years ago, three years ago, that I’d be playing on an NFL roster, but I’ve had the aspirations, but it’s definitely the dream of everyone who straps up on Friday, Saturday, Thursday to play at this level. I’m excited for what’s coming but I’m also excited for right now. I’m just trying to be patient, stay humble, stay ready.”

Davidson went from being projected as a seventh-round undrafted free agent, to now being projected as a possible fourth round pick.

However, none of that really matters to him; he says he really couldn’t care less how high he was drafted, or even where.

All that matters is that he gets his opportunity come April 29.

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