Utah State senior cornerback Jalen Davis did not get many offers coming out of high school to play college football.
“Utah State was a team who took a chance on me,” Davis said. “I just want to do it all for them, and give it my all.”
USU stood out to Davis because of the family atmosphere and unity of the team.
“Everybody loving one another, everybody having each other’s backs; it was just the place for me,” Davis said.
Davis, who is from La Mesa, California, has started every game he’s played in at Utah State, and his biggest accomplishment was becoming a captain of the team.
“That’s a big deal for me,” Davis said. “Just having people who would follow me into battle, that’s good.”
Davis’ leadership has stood out to defensive backs coach Julius Brown.
“He’s a leader in our room. He’s been playing since his freshman year, so he carries a lot of weight,” Brown said. “When he talks, the guys listen. He’s one of the leaders on this team that guys just look to, to make big plays in the brightest moments, and he’s done that.”
Brown has seen Davis grow in terms of being a more vocal leader.
“He’s always been a quiet guy who just got himself ready to play and always perform at a high level,” Brown said. “This year, I’ve seen him grow in terms of helping the younger guys and leaving his mark on this program.”
Davis was born in Hawaii but left after two weeks for California, where he lived until moving to Logan for school. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Davis began playing flag football when he was 6 years old in San Diego.
“I was killing it playing quarterback, playing running back and scoring all types of touchdowns,” Davis said. “It was a fun time.”
Davis has scored four touchdowns in his collegiate career. The senior had a career-high three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns from 30 and 50 yards, respectively, against BYU on Sept. 29, at Maverik Stadium.
“It feels good, but then again, I just want to help my team win,” Davis said in the post-game press conference. “That’s all I want to do; go out there and help my team win, so that’s what we did.”
Against the Cougars, Davis had five tackles, including two of the solo variety, and a pass breakup. As a team, Utah State forced seven turnovers against BYU.
“The defense played great tonight,” Davis said. “I’m proud of the whole defense — the defensive line, the linebackers and the secondary. We pride ourselves on forcing turnovers. That’s all we wanted to do this week was force turnovers and that’s what we did. We played a heck of a game.”
In Utah State’s season opener against Idaho State on Sept. 7, Davis had two interceptions, including returning one for 25 yards for a touchdown. As a true freshman in 2014, he had his first pick-six against the Bengals, returning it 44 yards for a score.
Davis was recently named a mid-season All-American by The Associated Press, ESPN, CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated as he is the only Football Bowl Subdivision player with three defensive touchdowns on the season.
Furthermore, Davis is one of 13 FBS players tabbed a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the top defensive back in college football.
Davis first got into sports because he loved them and his parents put him in them.
“As a young kid, I loved running with the football, playing with the basketball and playing catch with the baseball,” Davis said.
Baseball was actually Davis’ favorite sport growing up.
“But, I was really good at football, so I stuck with football,” he said.
Davis is one of 15 returning starters for the USU team, including one of eight on defense.
Davis started all 13 games he played in as a freshman when he tied for sixth on the team with 61 tackles, including 44 solo. He also tied for second on the team in interceptions with two, was fourth in pass breakups with seven and had 4.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks, one forced fumble and one quarterback hurry.
As a sophomore, Davis started all 13 games and led the team with eight pass breakups, ranking ninth in the Mountain West. He tied for first on the team with three interceptions, tying for 10th in the conference, and tied for third on the team with two quarterback hurries and was sixth in tackles with 51. Davis also had 3.0 tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble during the season.
During his junior campaign in 2016, Davis started all 10 games he played in, missing two due to injury. He finished the season with 37 tackles and tied for third on the team with 2.0 sacks and fifth with 5.0 tackles for loss. Davis had one tackle in nine of the 10 games he played in. He led the team with seven pass breakups and tied for the team lead with one forced fumble, and he also had one interception.
Before the 2017 season began, Davis garnered Athlon Sports second-team all-Mountain West preseason honors, third-team all-league honors from Phil Steele and College Sports Madness second-team all-conference accolades.
Davis has started all nine games of the season and has 26 tackles, including 3.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. He has five interceptions that have been returned for a total of 120 yards, to go along with seven pass breakups and one forced fumble.
“He’s competitive in everything he does, and loves to play the game of football,” Brown said. “He’s an ultra-competitor, one of the best I’ve been around.”
Davis is currently tied for sixth in the nation with his five interceptions this season, while his 12 passes defended (seven pass breakups, five interceptions) ranks second in the nation, as he is averaging 1.3 passes defended per game.
Davis’ performance against BYU earned him CBSSports.com National Player of the Week, Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week, one recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award Player of the Week, FBS College Football HERO of the Week and America First Credit Union USU Student-Athlete of the Week accolades.
Davis’ three interceptions against BYU are the second-most in a single game in school history and tied for the most in a single game in Mountain West history. Davis now has 11 interceptions in his career, which is tied for fourth in school history.
The two pick-sixes are a single-game school record. The senior also recorded his 28th pass breakup of his career against Colorado State for the most in school history, and Davis’ 227 career interception returning yards is second all-time in USU history.
Davis has had numerous honors outside of those from the BYU game.
In 2015, Davis garnered honorable mention all-Mountain West and Phil Steele third-team all-Mountain West honors. As a freshman, Davis was a 247Sports True Freshman All-American and College Football Performance Awards honorable mention National Defensive Back of the Week.
Davis also holds Utah State true freshman records in being the first true freshman to start a season opener at cornerback, and his two interceptions against Idaho State were the most by a true freshman in a single game.
“It has been fun, and I feel good,” Davis said. “But, I just try to push that stuff in the past and work on a new week.”
Davis said he wants to win the Mountain West championship his senior season.
“That’s what I expect to accomplish,” Davis said.
Though he didn’t play due to injury, Davis’ favorite memory from his time at Utah State was the 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl in his freshman season because he was there with family and friends, and the team won 21-6 against UTEP.
When he’s not playing football, Davis likes to play 2K and said he’s the best on the team.
“Nobody can beat me in 2K,” Davis said. “Anybody who wants to play 2K, let me know, and I will probably beat you.”
Brown pointed out that Davis’ favorite restaurant is Buffalo Wild Wings, and that he eats it way too much.
After graduating in May with a degree in sociology, the son of Verdis and Dana Davis hopes to enter the NFL Draft.
Davis will be missed.
“We have a really good time in the meeting room as a group,” Brown said. “He’s always laughing and smiling. I’ll miss him in terms of his on-the-field play, but also off the field and the type of kid he is. There is never a dull moment with him or those guys in that room, so that part is always good for me.”
Ashley Springer is a student at Utah State University studying journalism and communication. Springer is an intern with the USU athletic department's media relations.