Living the dream: Blue Springs grad Davis makes Super Bowl in rookie season
When Khalil Davis was growing up in Blue Springs, he and his twin brother Carlos shared a dream.
“We’re playing Little League football and all we talk about is making it to the NFL,” said Davis, who made that dream come true when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth round of the 2020 draft out of Nebraska.
“I was the 194th player selected and there were no guarantees. I had to work hard, pick up everything I could from the veteran players on the team and listen to my coaches.
“I’m like a sponge – want to soak it all in and use my first year as a learning experience.”
While he dreamed of playing in the NFL, Davis – an all-state defensive lineman for Blue Springs High School along with Carlos, now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers – never dreamed about playing in a Super Bowl.
“I watched,” he said. “I’d watch with my family and Carlos and I would talk about what that would be like, but I never could ever dream about playing in the Super Bowl.”
And now, the 6-foot-1, 308-pound defensive lineman – who can still stand flat-footed and do a backflip – is going to get to experience the Super Bowl firsthand. And it’s in his own back yard.
“That’s the kind of stuff that only happens in dreams – not my dreams, someone who’s dreams are a lot bigger than mine,” said Davis, whose Buccaneers become the first team in NFL history to host a Super Bowl in which they are competing.
The Buccaneers defeated Green Bay 31-26 in the NFC Championship to earn the right to meet Patrick Mahomes and his hometown Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55 Feb. 7 in Tampa.
“It’s all so crazy,” said Davis, who gave his two Super Bowl tickets to his mother and father, Tracy and Carl Davis. “I moved into a new apartment and I live four minutes from the stadium.
“I’m still under the radar because I’m not a starter, so I can pretty much go wherever I want to go and not be recognized. But I want to make this week so special for my mom and dad and all my family. I still can’t believe it – it’s almost too good to be true. I still need to pinch myself to know it’s real.”
It now seems like light years from that Saturday evening, the last day of the NFL Draft, when he and Carlos were waiting for their names to be called. They had been standout defensive lineman for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
They each gained a great deal of national attention from the outstanding performances at the NFL Combine, where Khalil ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds – the sixth-fastest time recorded by a defensive lineman in Indianapolis.
Carlos ran a 4.82-second 40, placing him in a tie for ninth among defensive linemen.
Khalil was called first, and about an hour later Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin called Carlos and asked, “Do you want to be a Steeler?” Carlos was selected with the 232nd pick.
“Honestly, it was the best feeling of my life when they called Carlos,” said Khalil, who led the 2019 Cornhuskers with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss. “That was one of the greatest nights of our lives. I got my call, and then, we all knew Carlos was going to be selected, we just had to wait a while. Honestly, when Carlos got the call I almost started to cry – and I did cry a little, tears of joy.”
They were the first brothers in the history of Nebraska football to be selected in the same NFL Draft.
“I don’t know what the odds are of brothers being selected in the NFL draft, but I know they have to be pretty small,” Khalil said. “That day was a dream come true and now we’re getting ready for the Super Bowl.”
Khalil played in two games for the Buccaneers this season, recording three tackles as the backup to fellow former Nebraska player Ndamukong Suh.
“This was my learning year, and like I said earlier, I was like a sponge around our coaches and the guys on the line,” he said. “When you play with the best players in the NFL – Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett – you learn something every day.
“And they’ve been great to me.You have to take it all in. And I did – I never missed a minute on the field or at practice, where I wasn’t watching and observing.”
And that includes watching future Hall of Famer and six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, the Buccaneers quarterback.
“I look over at Tom in the locker room and think, ‘That’s Tom Brady. He’s my teammate.’ And I just get so proud. He is so humble and such a hard worker. He’s the first guy to get to the stadium and the last to leave.
“He’ll come over to me and ask, ‘What’s up kid?’ He does that with all the guys on the team, and we know he is our leader. He is a big reason we’re going to the Super Bowl – he believes in himself and every guy on the team. We all raised our expectations with him as our quarterback, and now we’ll see what happens.”
Davis has no idea if he will dress for the big game, but he knows one thing.
“I’m going to work so hard at practice that I hope to make the guys I’m practicing against better,” Davis said. “Who plays is up to our coaches, and I’m fine with whatever they decide.
“I’m still living this dream and I don’t want it to end.”