ST. PETERSBURG — His appearance in this weekend's East-West Shrine Game, exactly three miles from his childhood home, hardly constitutes a full-circle narrative.
So far, Ryan Davis' career has been far more straight-up than circular, its dazzling vertical trajectory now nearing the NFL stratosphere.
"It's very surreal," the Lakewood High alumnus said.
Davis, who left home as the all-time leading passer in Pinellas, returns as the all-time leading pass catcher on the Plains. After throwing for more than 6,700 yards in his four-year varsity career, Davis resigned himself to the fact his sleekness and 5-foot-9 frame would work better as a receiver at the next level.
In November, he became Auburn's all-time receptions leader, finishing his four-year college career with 178 (for 1,555 yards).
"I knew (the position change) was gonna eventually happen with my size and things like that…but I was prepared for it," Davis said following the East squad's practice Monday at Tropicana Field, site of Saturday's afternoon's contest.
"I kinda started doing the training for it earlier, and just prepared for it…while I was doing my quarterback thing. So I kinda already knew what was gonna happen in the future."
Today, he stands as a viable draft candidate, equipped with a sprinter's burst, disciplined routes (especially the shorter ones), and a breakaway extra gear.
In Monday's practice, he delivered arguably the splash play of the day. Lined up wide right against Miami's Michael Jackson Sr. (who was playing off the ball), Davis sprinted 10 yards, abruptly stopped, stutter-stepped, head-faked right, then dashed upfield as Jackson bit on the route. The result was a 45-yard catch.
"Some people…have been playing the position all their life; everything kinda came natural to them," Davis said. "But just making stuff that is kind of unnatural feel more natural to me, I feel like that was the most important thing, and just being patient with making that transition."
OL Tyree St. Louis started his football career in Tampa before his sky-high potential took him to IMG Academy and the University of Miami. So it's fitting that the Tampa Bay Tech product is back in the area for the end of his college journey and the start of what he hopes will be a professional career.
"It all started right here, and it's all ending right here," St. Louis said. "It'll be a great time to go out one last time in front of all my friends and family and especially every eye in the sky watching me showcasing my abilities."
St. Louis showcased plenty with the Hurricanes. He started the final 34 games of his career at tackle and earned honorable mention all-ACC honors in his 13 starts at left tackle last season. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound prospect wants to show scouts that he's versatile enough to play other spots on the line, too.
For the first time since 2007, USF has no representative in the Shrine Game, though former Bulls TE Kano Dillon — who played his graduate-transfer season at Oregon — is competing for the West. … The head coaches for this year's game are second-generation NFL employees. East coach Sam Mills III, the Carolina Panthers defensive line coach, is the son of the former Panthers/Saints linebacker of the same name (who died in 2005). The West's Adam Zimmer works for his dad, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, as the team's linebackers coach.