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Jarrad Davis' 'almost unreachable' task becomes reality during the NFL draft

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Jarrad Davis has Pro Bowl potential (0:44)

With great character to match his on-field performance, Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis has all of the tools to be a successful linebacker in the NFL, according to Mel Kiper Jr. (0:44)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- As a kid, Jarrad Davis would sit and stare at the television for hours during the NFL draft. Never, though, did he think about his name being called.

Years and years went by of him watching the draft and he never envisioned it, never dreamed it. He didn't consider it a possibility until he committed to play Division I football at Florida.

"I knew once I came to a school like that I really knew that I wanted to be one of those elite guys and be able to have an opportunity to put myself in this position," Davis said. "I don't know, man, just being able to watch it, it almost felt like it was unreal, you know. In my younger years, it was almost like it was a task that was almost unreachable.

"But as the years went on and the harder I worked and the older I got, you know, the closer I got to this point, it became more and more realistic."

Realism became truth at 10:40 p.m. ET on Thursday night, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced Davis as the No. 21 overall pick to the Detroit Lions, turning a draft-watcher as a kid to a player with a job in professional football.

By then, Davis already knew where he was going. He had spoken with general manager Bob Quinn, head coach Jim Caldwell and team owner Martha Ford. There was noise in the background of his family's home because those gathered were celebrating.

The Lions targeted Davis from the start. They had a large contingent, including Quinn and Caldwell, travel to Florida to meet with him during the team's pro day. They started evaluating him almost a year ago during spring scouting through an individual workout in March.

When he was there at No. 21, the Lions didn't hesitate, either. They took a few calls about trades -- but nothing Quinn deemed serious. Davis has everything Quinn wanted in a high-round pick: A talented player at a position of need who had no character concerns. The first two are things every team seeks. The character component is something Quinn has strived for in high draft picks.

"It's a big part of it," Quinn said. "When you take someone with a few character flaws, and none of these kids are perfect, that's the thing, none of them are perfect. So I felt like you kind of minimize risk when you take guys without some issues. I feel real comfortable with the guy we took."

Quinn said in the overall evaluation of Davis, he came out ahead of another linebacker still on the board with some questions -- Alabama's Reuben Foster, who tested positive for a diluted sample at the combine. Quinn said everyone they talked to at Florida -- from the head coach to the equipment manager -- glowed about Davis. Plus, they spent "a number of hours" with him in Gainesville, trying to learn as much as they could about him.

What they found was a player on the field who could play either middle or weakside linebacker, giving Detroit position flexibility as he competes with Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow and Antwione Williams for jobs. They found a player who pushes to make his teammates better.

And they found a player who filled a massive need as a potential three-down linebacker after the Lions released DeAndre Levy in March.

"It's a position that we had trouble with last year, keeping guys healthy first off," Quinn said. "And it's a position where I think you really need a guy in the middle of your defense that can be looked upon to call the defense, hopefully become a leader in time and really be that gel between the secondary and the defensive line.

"So it was a position of need for sure."

That put the Lions in a position to want Davis and then draft him, despite the potential to trade down and acquire more picks. Quinn said linebackers with his makeup coming out of college are rare, which made him more valuable to Detroit.

That allowed Davis' initial vision, one started when he decided to go to Florida, come true. Well, sort of.

"The older and older I got, the more and more I knew what to expect out of the draft," Davis said. "The biggest reason I stayed home was to be able to do it the way I've been doing it for so long.

"I'm a guy that's really big on routine, man, and watching the draft from the house is a big, big benefit."

When he first envisioned being drafted, he dreamed of walking across the stage and hugging Goodell like so many prospects did Thursday night. Then he decided against it.

For this moment, the one he worked so hard for, he wanted to be at home. He wanted to be able to watch like he did when he was a kid who was just a football fan with no NFL dreams.