- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

MIAMI — Three seasons with the Arena Football League’s San Jose Saber Cats without a feeler from the NFL forced Rashied Davis to assess his future.

And it didn’t include football.

After the 2004 AFL season, when the Saber Cats won the league title and Davis had 1,785 all-purpose yards, he contemplated quitting the game and becoming a California Highway Patrol officer.

Davis enjoyed playing, but it wasn’t rewarding financially (a base salary of less than $35,000), and it was taxing physically (he has a plate in his ankle and two screws in a hand).

“I didn’t want to get trapped in Arena, because I wasn’t making a lot of money, so I would have had to keep playing,” Davis said. “It’s a great game, but I wasn’t building a resume for outside of football. Nobody was going to give me a serious job when half the year I would be gone playing football.”

Two years later, Davis is glad he didn’t give up. Now in his second season with the Chicago Bears, Davis, a reserve receiver, will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl against Indianapolis.

Guys who don’t play high school football, go to community college, play two years at a second-tier Division I-A program, spend three seasons in the Arena League and come to the NFL as a corner aren’t generally success stories as NFL wideouts. Davis is the exception.

“It gives everyone hope,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “When you talk with Rashied, you see why a guy like that can make it. He’s got a lot of determination. That’s America, and that’s our sport, where guys like that get an opportunity.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from. If you’re a good football player, we’ll find you.”

As a cornerback last season, Davis, 27, played in 12 games, making 10 tackles. He also returned 11 kickoffs.

The Bears moved him to receiver last offseason, and he had 22 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season. Against Seattle in the NFC Divisional playoffs, he caught a 37-yard pass to set up the Bears’ first touchdown and in overtime had a 30-yard reception to set up the game-winning field goal.

“He’s improved tremendously,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “Each week he got better and better and felt more comfortable in his role, and we as a staff felt more comfortable with how to use him.

“We had expectations that he would give us a boost, but we didn’t know if they were unrealistic, but that’s what we had to get from him. He’s stepped up and done very well.”

Davis grew up in south central Los Angeles, and his father was murdered when Rashied was 8. His mother made sure he commuted an hour by bus to a safer neighborhood to attend high school in Granada Hills, Calif. He gave football a shot at West Los Angeles Community College. He finished his collegiate career as a defensive back at San Jose State, the only school to offer him a scholarship.

During a season with the Saber Cats, Davis also coached the running backs at West Valley College, making $1,000. His average salary in Arena football was $35,000-$40,000. The winner’s team share in the Super Bowl this year is $78,000 a player.

“I’m trying to soak it all in,” he said. “It’s been crazy talking to friends I grew up with and hearing them say how proud they are and how they knew I could do it.”

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