While St. Louis Rams fans may have been surprised with how well quarterback Austin Davis played in his dynamic debut win over Tampa Bay on Sunday, Sept. 14, Westminster Christian Academy senior quarterback Brendan Bognar knew it was entirely possible.
“He keeps his head straight,” said Bognar whom Davis worked with last year. “He understands how blessed he is to be in the situation he’s in. He been underrated his whole life. He was not heavily recruited. He wasn’t drafted.
“He never got down. He understands you have to work for what you get.”
In his first career NFL start, Davis led the Rams to their first win of the season, a 19-17 win over the Buccaneers. Davis completed 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Bognar watched the game. He was excited for his friend.
“Oh yeah, I watched every snap,” Bognar said. “I couldn’t sit down I was so excited. He did everything his coach asked him to do and a little bit more. He’s the real deal. I was telling my friends beforehand that he was going to do well.
“They were like ‘OK, blah, blah, blah. There weren’t optimistic. Now at school, all the guys know he can play. He threw a back shoulder wheel route that Jared Cook caught. It was a great pass. That’s something Brett Favre did. Of course, I was impressed by him.”
Before the game, Bognar said he texted Davis. He wanted to wish him good luck.
“We were talking about a little sign we do when I throw at TD in high school,” Bognar said. “He said he would do it in the game if he didn’t forget, but he didn’t throw a touchdown pass. After the game, I texted him and told he did great and he texted back and said ‘Thank you very much.'”
Davis got his chance to play when starter Shaun Hill injured his thigh in the first half of the season opener against Minnesota. Davis played the second half in the 34-6 loss. Last week, Hill was unable to play still, so Davis got the start.
Davis had a stellar career in college. A walk-on to the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles program, Davis redshirted the 2007 season and became the starter one year later. He ended the year with a combined total of 15 school records for both game and single-season marks that were held by Favre and led the Golden Eagles to a bowl game victory in the 2008 New Orleans Bowl.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, Davis went undrafted and signed a free agent deal with the Rams, who put him on the practice squad. Last year, the Rams cut him on Aug. 30. The Miami Dolphins signed Davis to their practice squad in September. After Bradford was hurt in October, the Rams re-signed Davis.
Before his second stint with the Rams, Davis was a volunteer assistant coach at Westminster Christian Academy.
Westminster coach Cory Snyder said Davis contacted him about working with the Wildcats.
“He emailed me after being in a Bible study with one of our former players whose brother was on our staff,” Snyder said. “He was looking for a place to be around the game, and after meeting with him, I knew that he would be good for our guys. He really took the opportunity to have an impact on our kids seriously and did a great job in that role”
Davis helped out a couple of days a week for a few weeks before he was resigned by the Rams, Snyder said.
In that time frame, he connected with Bognar. The junior knew who Davis was.
“My first thoughts were as soon as I saw him that I always kind of idolized him,” Bognar said. “I was a Houston fan and a Case Keenum fan. Houston was playing Southern Mississippi and I just loved watching Austin Davis play in that game, so I followed him after that.”
However, Bognar admitted he recently had not thought about Davis until Snyder brought up his name.
“One day coach Snyder asked me if knew who Austin Davis is,” Bognar said. “I said yes and he told me he was going to work with us. I thought it was really cool.”
Snyder figured most of his players wouldn’t recognize Davis.
“The kids probably thought it was pretty cool but most of them probably didn’t even know that he was with the Rams before I introduced him,” Snyder said. “After the introduction, I think that the players saw him as a coach and friend more than an NFL player, which speaks highly of him as a person.”
Davis came to practice a couple times a week and was available to the players, Snyder said.
“Sometimes he would help run quarterback drills to free me up to observe another group but mostly he interacted, encouraged and gave pointers to the guys,” Snyder said. “He talked about the little things needed to be an effective quarterback and took on somewhat of a mentoring relationship while he was involved.”
Davis and Bognar hit it off right away.
“There’s such a relationship that quarterbacks have. Most of them are the same kind of people,” Bognar said. “You get along really quickly. I understood how he thought. He really helped me learn football in a deeper way.”
During practice, Davis watched Bognar and the quarterbacks work. Then, he met with them after practice.
“After practice, when we did work for an hour or two every day, he would take me through the concepts of each play and what the offense was trying to accomplish,” Bognar said. “That helped me a lot. He gave me which guy to look at first, then second, that kind of thing.
“Mentally, the biggest thing he taught me was about competing. You saw Sunday that he’s a competitor. He taught me that you have to be happy when you do good and be the same when you struggling. He does a fantastic job at that. He taught the importance of practice. You have treat every practice like it’s a game. If you do that, you can be successful.”
Snyder is happy the two quarterbacks meshed liked they did.
“Brendan and Austin got along really well,” Snyder said. “I think that Brendan really valued the opportunity to learn from Austin. I think that it was mutually beneficial. Austin got to come and check out coaching, be part of a program, stay around the game, and have a place to work out and throw a little bit.
“We got a solid, Christian role model that was interested in investing in our kids while he was around. He was also great to have in the coaches’ office and we all got along really well.”
What impressed Bognar most was not only that Davis treated him so well, but that he did not act like a star. He presented himself as a regular guy.
“It changed my view on a lot of things. He thinks like an NFL quarterback,” Bognar said. “Those guys are superstars. But he took time to build a relationship with a high school kid. That’s impressive to me.
“I stay in touch with him. He helps me with the recruiting process. He’s talked to coaches for me, his former coaches and guys he knows. I text him a lot. He let me come to Rams practice and watch this summer.”
Snyder and his staff were working Sunday. However, they did catch some of the action.
“We were in a game-planning meeting but stopped during his last drive to watch him lead the team down the field,” Snyder said. “It was pretty fun to cheer for him as a staff and we were really happy for him and the Rams to get the win.
“It looked like he made good decisions with the ball and made the plays when it mattered. Any time your team gets the win is a positive.”
Davis is a positive person. He willingly talks about his Chrisitan beliefs. That helps Bognar stay close to him.
“He’s a Christian guy. He talks about his faith with me a lot actually,” Bognar said. “He’s gets me thinking about things in different ways. He makes a difference He talks to me about more than just football. That says something about him.”
“Austin is a great person and was a great Christian role model for our kids,” Snyder said. “As a coaching staff it was fun to get to know him and he added value to our office discussions and camaraderie. Our relationship was never about what we could get from each other but what we could give. Austin was interested in adding value to our program and we were interested in providing him with a place to be involved.
“I think that the outcome and experience will always be positive when the focus is on interest of the other person rather than on what you can gain from the situation.”