Bryce Davis walked out onto the field at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati surrounded by more than 65,000 seats, afraid he may be out of place.
The Duncan native and University of Central Oklahoma graduate was alongside guys who had spent their final season of college playing on ESPN and CBS. Davis couldn’t help but wonder if he was strong enough, fast enough or big enough to wear the same uniform as them.
It only took one day at the Bengals’ rookie minicamp for all of those questions to disappear.
“Going into the NFL, I was thinking that players were going to be way bigger, way stronger, way faster. But they are just the same that I am. They were just good college players,” Davis said. “I can play right there with them. That was kind of a shocker.”
Davis, a 2008 graduate of Duncan High School, was picked up by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent shortly after the draft. He is the first Duncan-born player in the NFL in 35 years and the first DHS graduate in the league since Dave Reavis finished his 10-year career as a Buccaneers in 1983
“(The Bengals) had talked to me toward the end of last season,” Davis said. “Their special teams coordinator looked at me and they said they liked me.
“After the sixth round of the draft they had called me, they had run out of picks at that point, and they told me that they wanted to sign me right after it was over. Right after the draft, they called and made an offer.”
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound long snapper and tight end has achieved what few NCAA Division-II players do: signing with and NFL team. At the end of last season, there were 71 players on NFL rosters with DII roots. He joins Saint Louis Rams’ defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo as Central Oklahoma alumni in the NFL.
Davis still has a ways to go, though, before making the Bengals’ final roster and suiting up this fall.
Currently, Cincinnati has 86 players on its roster. By the time it breaks from training camp in a little more than a month, that roster will be lighter by about 30 players. By the time the season rolls around, the roster will have to be paired down to the final 53.
“You’ve just got to hope for the best and know all the plays and when you get an opportunity, do the best you can and don’t screw up the play,” said Davis, who knows that he is playing for a spot on the team every time he takes the field.
Davis has already made it through one round of cuts.
He and 46 others went to Cincinnati from May 11-13 for rookie minicamp. Shortly after the three days of practice, only 19 were still in the hunt to be Bengals.
“The rookie minicamp was good,” Davis said. “Twenty-eight guys ended up going home after that. Almost all of the free agents that were there went home.”
By making it through the rookie minicamp, Davis got to go through workouts and organized team activities (OTAs) with the Bengals’ veterans.
The final test for Davis before being among those veterans this fall is training camp, which begins on July 26 in Cincinnati.
“(My focus is on) being in shape and studying the play book. That’s the biggest part,” Davis said. “I just have to go as hard as I can and make every snap count.”
One thing in Davis’ favor is that he plays multiple positions.
Though Davis is listed as a long snapper on the Bengals’ roster, he has also been working at tight end in practice. Even if he isn’t a starter, by having Davis on the sideline, the Bengals would have an insurance policy at both positions in case of injuries.
“It should help a lot,” Davis said. “There’s not a lot of dual position guys.”
Last season with the UCO Bronchos, Davis made 44 catches for a team-high 560 yards and four touchdowns.
His production, as well as his athleticism — Davis runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds — garnered the attention of 22 NFL teams, which either contacted Davis directly or came out to see him work out at UCO on his pro day.
Until he heads back to Cincinnati for training camp, Davis is back at Central Oklahoma, working out, practicing his long snaps and trying to insure he’s ready to compete for a job in the NFL.