Before football became his primary sport and eventually led to a scholarship to play at Fresno State, Tyeler Davison excelled on another playing surface.
The defensive tackle, who hopes to hear his name called during this week’s NFL Draft, wrestled at Deseret Mountain High in Scottsdale, Ariz.
But it wasn’t until his junior year, when he finally became a star on the mat but also nearly lost his chance to compete, that he grew to appreciate the sport.
“There was a little mark on my leg,” Davison recalled, frustrated at the time because he thought it was ringworm — a fungal infection that would have barred him from tournaments.
A visit to the doctor told him it was only a cut, but the scare changed Davison’s outlook.
“I didn’t like wrestling because it was so hard,” he said. “As soon as I had that thing on my leg and they said I probably couldn’t wrestle, I was mad. I realized that I do actually like the sport of wrestling.”
He set his sights high, determined to win a state title as a senior, and did so in the heavyweight division. Football still wound up getting him to the next level, but he says wrestling helped make him the player he is today.
“It was really hard. Tons of running, and it’s all about being in shape,” Davison said. “It’s always about being in shape … run miles and stairs. Tons of conditioning when you go to practice … extreme conditioning.”
Then-Fresno State football coach Pat Hill took notice, seeing as part of the 2010 recruiting class what others missed in the undersized prospect.
“Tyler was an outstanding high school wrestler,” Hill said, “came from a very good family, had a great supportive home, and was very good academically in high school. I could see he was focused.
“Other people missed the boat because of his lack of height, and he was only 265 pounds at the time he was a state champion wrestler. I’ve always felt that high school wrestlers had great balance and toughness.”
Hill had built his own list just of ex-Fresno State players — Tyler Clutts, Kyle Goodman and Lorenzo Neal to name a few — who had excelled on the wrestling mat and on the field.
Davison said all the hard work showed him another side of preparedness that wrestling encourages.
“I feel like wrestling makes you mentally tougher,” Davison said. “The conditions and all that stuff, and that is no joke. That makes you mentally tougher. ”
Davison’s father, Ramsey, saw all of the benefits, sometimes up close and personal.
“Wrestling is completely all leverage and completely helps get him the good skill set to play football,” Dad said. “He played both ways in high school and he was starting both ways. I think his wrestling had a great impact on his football play. He would come home and do moves on me, and he still tries to do it. He always wants to be winner and when he doesn’t win he gets very upset about it.”
Said Hill: “It didn’t matter to me that he was only 6-foot-1 because he had large hands and great arm length (34 inches) and that (is) the same as a person 6-5. I wasn’t worried about him being able to get separation. A lot of people overlook those type of things.
“He grew into quite a player, and the coaching staff at Fresno State under coach Tim DeRuyter did an outstanding job developing his talents. Many times in recruiting you have to see the pearl in the oyster, and as it turns out Tyler Davison was quite a pearl.”
No matter which NFL team drafts him, Davison has the same message:
“I bring mental toughness to the team … physical toughness and tenacity,” he said. “I feel like I bring an upgrade to a defense as an all-around defensive tackle and defensive lineman, to do whatever they ask.”