For most undrafted free agents, minicamp tryouts can be the hardest and most stressful thing they’ve ever done. For Rulon Davis, who spent six months in Iraq, he might as well be playing a game of flag football with friends.
Davis was a two-year starter at defensive end at Cal, but what jumps out at you on his resume is his four years in the Marine Corps, including a tour of Iraq in 2004, the deadliest year for American forces. And though he returned safely, that doesn’t make him any less a hero than Pat Tillman.
He joined the Marine reserves while playing at a junior college in California, even though he had Pac-10 scholarship offers. Then the war began, and Davis was called up.
“I wanted to get back as soon as I possibly could to start playing football again,” Davis said. “But I had to do my job. I signed the contract, and I like to honor my commitment.”
He doesn’t talk about his tour in Iraq, only to say he lost good friends, and still thinks about it all the time. But when he returned, he found Cal waiting for him.
As it turns out, Cal is one of the few schools to run a 3-4 defense; exactly the scheme that Denver is converting to. In other ways too, he fits right in.
He was named after Broncos defensive end star Rulon Jones. And though “going to war” and “being a hero” don’t carry the risk of death in the NFL, the structured atmosphere helps Davis feel right at home in Denver.
“The way he speaks, he’s very correct, proper,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “He treats everybody with a great deal of respect. He listens, asks good questions. Sits up in his chair, always attentive, those types of things. You can tell he was brought up the right way.”
It’s tough to gauge his chances of making the team. The numbers aren’t in his favor, but he won’t be cut for a lack of effort.
“Nothing’s came easy in my life as you can see,” Davis said. “I’ve had to work for everything. Hard work is not something that’s unfamiliar to me.”