Updated as of Feb. 8, 2022 at 10:10 a.m. to include additional photos.
When Davis Cheek arrived at Elon University in the fall of 2017, he knew his goal was to someday play in the NFL. After five years with the team and 40 starts as quarterback, Cheek’s goal is finally in sight.
Even though no Elon quarterback has thrown a pass in a regular season NFL game, he said he has viewed his professional future as more of a reality than just a possibility throughout his college career.
“I've kind of built my life around football and I take it very seriously,” Cheek said. “I'm still a realistic person and understand that this is a tough business but I’m not going to sit here and say it sounds like a long shot. No, I think that I am 100% going to make it and stay around and have success and hopefully be the starter of an NFL organization in the coming years.”
With the 2022 NFL Draft set for April 28 to 30 in Las Vegas, Nevada, four Elon players are preparing for a potential career in the league and hoping to get an opportunity. Cheek, along with wide receiver Kortez Weeks, tight end Donovan Williams and defensive tackle Tristen Cox, are looking to make NFL rosters this summer.
When Elon’s season ended in November, the four players began preparing for the draft. While the players will train on their own for the next few months, they have received help from Elon throughout the season.
Elon assistant coach Andy Marino serves as the team’s professional liaison. In this role, he communicates with NFL teams about Elon prospects and works with players throughout the season to prepare them for the draft process.
Last summer, Elon started an NFL Ready program, which is open to players who have completed their third academic year. Marino said the goal of the program is to teach players about the draft process and what they need to do to prepare throughout the season.
“What we're just trying to do is give them a pathway, and some light at the end of the tunnel,” Marino said.
Elon will host a pro day on March 30 that will be open to NFL scouts to observe the four players run drills. The players could also be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine from March 1 to 7 in Indianapolis, Indiana, where approximately 300 players will participate in drills in front of scouts and front office personnel from all 32 NFL teams.
Marino said the goal for the players leading into the team’s pro day is to get into the best physical shape possible, but also to be prepared mentally to play their position at the next level.
“You want your body peaking around pro day and what you do in these two months is along with your body peaking, you are really fine tuning your performance on the whiteboard, so to speak,” Marino said. “Schematically mastering your job and all the details a scout might ask you in a private visit.”
Cheek said he underwent a surgery in December following the team’s finale against the University of Rhode Island to clean up a lisfranc injury he suffered during the season. Cheek said the recovery is going well and that he expects to be ready for Elon’s pro day and for additional workouts with teams.
Building an NFL culture
Since the first NFL Draft in 1936, just 17 players from Elon University’s football team have been selected by NFL franchises, and only three have been taken since 1992. Seven other Elon players have made NFL rosters as undrafted free agents.
The last Elon player drafted was offensive lineman Olisaemeka Udoh, who was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round in 2019. Marino said that because the program has had recent success with sending a player to the NFL, he expects that scouts will pay more attention to Elon prospects in the near future.
“Now that we've had a couple NFL guys, they're gonna keep coming back and they know the type of people we're sending, which is most important,” Marino said. “They know it's going to be a good person coming into the organization, going to be on time for meetings, going to be a smart football player, going to work hard.”
Cheek said the group of players looking to make it to the NFL this season are looking to blaze a trail for future Elon players who want to play professional football.
“It's a new standard for the program and it's going to be just about sustaining and continuing it,” Cheek said. “There's guys that paved the way for us and then we're paving hopefully a different path, a better path for some other people.”