By Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Reporter
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots surprised many by selecting world-class rugby player Nate Ebner in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, and Ebner soon emerged as one of the team’s top special-teamers.
So why not consider going down that path again?
That is one way to view the team’s tryout invitation to Brock Davies for rookie minicamp this week, as Davies arrived in town with anything but the traditional football background.
Born in New Zealand, he went on to represent Australia in international rugby competition. At age 19, he went to play professionally in France and England for three years before returning to Australia.
Soon after, Davies came to the United States with a goal of focusing on his education and the hope of playing football. He enrolled at Colorado State University-Pueblo and walked on to the football team, which is one of the top programs in the Division II ranks.
He rose from walk-on to team captain, playing on the defensive line (29 tackles, five sacks in his senior year) and on special teams, as his athleticism helped him overcome a lack of football experience.
Now 26, Davies is going all-out for his chance to prove he belongs in the NFL.
One of his first steps was to hire agent Jack Bechta, whom he identified because of his history representing others with a rugby background, such as longtime Dallas Cowboys punter Mat McBriar, former New York Jets tight end Hayden Smith and former San Francisco 49ers special-teamer Jarryd Hayne.
Bechta said Davies is “a determined young man with an electric personality,” relaying a story from the day before the NFL draft in which Davies flew himself to Dallas on a whim and showed up unannounced at the Cowboys’ facility in hopes of earning a tryout.
That didn’t work out as Davies hoped, reflecting a bit of naiveté with NFL business. Things also didn’t look optimistic for his hopes when no team signed him as an undrafted free agent after the draft.
Yet Bechta had a hunch that the Patriots, who are known in many NFL circles for their thoroughness in scouting, might have seen some promise in Davies from his participation at a Colorado pro day.
CSU-Pueblo defensive product
Brock Davies turns heads
at CU-Boulder's pro day.
10'3 broad jump..
4.71sec.. 40yard dash
— Darius Allen (@iamdariusallen3) March 9, 2017
Bechta’s hunch proved correct, as a call to director of player personnel Nick Caserio was answered and Caserio had some positive things to say. Specifically, Caserio and the Patriots noted that Davies’ attitude was particularly positive at the pro day, and that while he is a raw athlete who would likely have to switch to linebacker or fullback in the NFL, there was a possibility he could be competitive in camp.
Bechta would later ask whether the club might consider bringing Davies in for a tryout at their rookie minicamp. Caserio obliged.
“Brock is a tremendous athlete who has a great upside to him,” CSU-Pueblo coach John Wristen said. “There’s no question there he is one heck of an athlete, and he works his ass off.”
Where things go from here remains to be seen, but Davies’ presence in town is another reminder of how the Patriots are open-minded while scouring the country for talent in sometimes unconventional places.
They already have one top-notch rugby player in Ebner, who represented the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics before returning to New England.
Adding another in Davies would be something else.