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Fred Davis made his first visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton over the weekend.
The Toledoan, who is a rookie tight end for the Washington Redskins, enjoyed every minute of his stay.
He walked through and looked over plenty of football history, including busts of the 247 members of the Hall of Fame. He watched the latest induction class that included two former Redskins greats - Art Monk and Darrell Green - deliver emotional induction speeches.
Then the Redskins' second-round draft pick out of USC went out in his pro debut and had a team-leading three receptions for 23 yards against the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on Sunday night.
"It felt good to finally get your feet wet a little bit and to go out and make some plays," said Davis, reached by telephone. "The game was in Ohio, my family was there and even though it was a preseason game I was excited to play."
Wearing the Redskins' No. 86 jersey, Davis matched fellow teammate and tight end Todd Yoder for most catches against the Colts in the NFL's preseason opener. The 6-foot-4, 257-pounder, who recently signed a $3.5 million contract that included a $1.8 million signing bonus, showed the kind of route-running and pass-catching skills that made him the John Mackey Award winner, given annually to college football's top tight end.
His first reception was in the first half, a quick pass near the middle of the field he turned into an eight-yard gain. He caught two more passes in the Redskins' 30-16 victory.
"It was just a little something," Davis said of his first reception in a NFL contest. "I just tried to turn it up the field. After that I wanted to go deep for a pass."
Davis was greeted by approximately 15 family members and friends who made the 3 1/2-hour trip from Toledo.
Redskins first-year coach Jim Zorn was pleased about what he saw from his rookie tight end.
"I wanted to try to get him the ball a couple times," Zorn said. "He not only caught it, he turned up the field and showed he was a tough runner after the catch."
It's only the beginning for Davis, one of three draft selections made by the Redskins during the second round to help their passing game. Rookie wide receivers Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma) and Devin Thomas (Michigan State) are all expected to contribute, but they were held out of the game due to hamstring injuries.
"They definitely drafted all these players [in the second round] for a purpose," he said. "The expectations are high here. We have a lot of talent at each offensive position. Our offense is stacked."
Davis recognizes plenty of work must still be done before the Redskins play in the NFL's nationally televised regular season kickoff contest against the NFC East rival and defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Thursday, Sept. 4.
And Davis, who played under former NFL coach Pete Carroll at USC, continues to work on the transition from college to the pro ranks.
"It's kind of tough mentally because it's a little different from college," he said of training camp. "It's not been so bad [physically] because it does remind me of college except we have two-a-days every day instead of every other day. It can wear you down, so you have to get adjusted to it.
"You're playing with older guys who have families and are married. As far as football, people have much better technique than in college. Coming from a school where I came from I think helped prepare me."
Besides the Redskins uniform colors being similar to those he donned at USC, Davis said there are similarities with his NFL coach and college coach.
"Zorn definitely reminds me of coach Carroll a lot with the energy he brings. And he's always excited and you can go to him and talk to him about anything," Davis said.
Among the topics Davis has sat down with Zorn and discussed a few months ago was his missing a mini-camp practice after oversleeping the early morning session. Davis explained to Zorn what happened after not being able to fall asleep before switching rooms in the hotel where the Redskins were housed for the mini-camp.
"I wasn't used to having a roommate and I was still adjusting from California time, but it was my fault," he said. "We had a long talk and everything is good. I told him it wouldn't happen again."
Davis is not the only Redskins player with Toledo roots. Veteran linebacker Khary Campbell, a Southview and Bowling Green State University product, is in his seventh season in the NFL and fifth with the Redskins.
"If I need to know something about the team and how things work I can go ask him," said Davis, who met Campbell for the first time in Toledo a few days after he was drafted by the Redskins.
Washington's trip to Canton will not be the only time Davis plays close to home in his first season in the NFL. Washington will play against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Oct. 26 and will visit Cincinnati to play the Bengals on Dec. 14.
In the meantime, Davis plans to continue to work his way through the preseason as one of the newest Redskins.
"It's fun just being around this team," he said. "Washington, D.C., is a great place to be in and I'm definitely grateful to be here. And I feel like I can definitely help this team."
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