Considering Davon Drew has only been a tight end for three years, it is easy to see why his rise to the Ravens as a sixth-round draft pick is all the more impressive.
With Todd Heap (back) and L.J. Smith (sports hernia) both limited because of injuries, there was Drew hauling in passes from Baltimore's quarterbacks. It was a far cry from when he first got to college on the other end of the throws.
Credit Drew's former college coach, East Carolina University's Skip Holtz, for recognizing his potential at the position.
When Drew joined the Pirates in 2004, it was as a quarterback. Drew went 30-3 at the position in high school and won back-to-back state championships at New Bern High School in North Carolina. However, problems with Drew's triceps on his throwing arm kept him off the field when he arrived in Greenville.
"I had this great athlete standing next to me on the sidelines, and I knew we had to find a role for [him] to step on to the field," said Holtz. "My feeling was that he was big, athletic and had good hands. He had a good understanding of the offense [as a former quarterback]."
Holtz approached Drew about a potential change in position to tight end. To Drew's credit, he embraced it immediately.
"I wouldn't have been willing to change if I wasn't going to put 100 percent interest into the position," Drew commented. "That would have been pointless. It was a decision I made because I was tired of sitting back and not doing anything."
Drew officially converted to tight end during 2006 spring drills. He proceeded to bulk up as well, putting on 35-40 pounds over the next few years.
The question in Holtz's mind was, was he physical enough? But when Holtz saw that Davon was not afraid to go over the middle, he knew it was just a matter of time.
"I thought 'Holy smokes, we may be on to something here,'" Holtz remarked.
The move turned into a productive one for Drew, Holtz and the entire Pirates' offense. Drew became a three-year All-Conference USA performer. He played in 40 consecutive games, starting 32 of them, and amassed 78 catches for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns. 2008 was a standout year for him, when he established a single-season team record for receiving yards by a tight end with 695.
Not bad for a player who transitioned halfway through his college career.
"The reason it worked is that he bought into it," Holtz said of his former player's devotion to the game. "I wish we had him another year."
Davon's development and production notably caught the attention of the Ravens' scouting department. When Ravens tight ends coach Wade Harman went to Greenville to work him out, he was impressed as well.
"We think he has a tremendous upside," said Ravens general Manager Ozzie Newsome shortly after the Ravens selected him 149th overall. "Having been around Cam [Cameron] and having an understanding of this offense from my own playing days, I understand how Cam can utilize a tight end, and I think Drew has the type of skills that can be utilized by Cam and the offensive coaches."
It's too early to gauge how well the rookies are truly doing so far in OTAs and passing camp. But the coaching staff likes what they've seen.
"He's got good passing skills. He can run routes well and he catches the ball well," said Harman.
Like Holtz, Harman believes Drew's past as a quarterback serves him well in the offense.
"I think that gives him a little bit of an advantage when we're talking about defenses and coverages," Harman continued. "I think he has a good feel for teams when try to attack and that will help him a little bit.
"As he learns what we're doing, then he can start focusing on what the defense is doing. I think that part will come a little bit faster for him, based on his experiences as a quarterback. From what I've seen, he's got the body structure and the desire. I think if he can develop that as he goes, he'll be fine."
Based on Drew's early performance, he is what the coaching staff thought he would be, especially his desire to get involved as much as he can.
"Right now I'm just looking for a backup role in case someone goes down," Drew noted. "I'm trying to do whatever I can on special teams to help the team out. When you're a rookie you just do what you have to do to make the team. Right now, that's the situation I'm in, and that's what I'm looking forward to.
"I want to learn everything that I possibly can from the older guys. It's just one big learning process that I'm willing to go through again."
But with those vets standing on the sidelines, Drew has stepped in admirably.
"With those guys not practicing as much, he's getting a lot of opportunities to learn the system," Harman spoke of Drew. "The process of him actually being out there on the field and getting reps with the offense I think will really help his development.
"He's a knowledgeable player. He likes football, he wants to improve and he wants to compete."
What sort of role Drew has in the offense remains to be seen. But Drew will undoubtedly work hard to ensure that whatever that role becomes, it will help the team.