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From cut to starting, Michael Davis grinding for Bolts

One of the AFC's final four teams left standing a season ago, the Los Angeles Chargers had ample expectations for the upcoming season.

An ever-so arduous offseason has troubled the beleaguered Bolts, however.

Most notably, all-everything second-year safety Derwin James will be out for some time with a stress fracture, starting left tackle Russell Okung's return remains a mystery due to a pulmonary embolism and star running back Melvin Gordon's holdout is set to carry on into the regular season.

There is one story of success within the Chargers ranks that's gone largely overlooked, though.

In the summer of 2017, defensive back Michael Davis, after going undrafted out of Brigham Young University, was cut by the Chargers following his signing as an undrafted free agent. Not long after, he was re-signed -- as a practice squad player. He would eventually see playing time as a rookie, then as a second-year player and now, as the seasons draws near, Davis is listed on as the starting left cornerback.

"It's a big deal for me," Davis said via Andrew Campa of the Glendale News-Press, his hometown paper as he began his ascent starring at Glendale High and eventually becoming the school's first NFL player since linebacker Duane Bickett, who last played in 1996. "It means I've been grinding. It means I've been working hard and my hard work is paying off."

A speedster with a prototypical frame at 6-foot-2 and right around 200 pounds, the 24-year-old Davis was almost exclusively a special teams contributor as a rookie with four tackles in 15 games. In the aforementioned 2018 season of success for the Chargers, though, Davis became a valued contributor, playing in all 16 games, tallying nine starts and racking up 50 tackles, eight passes defended and a forced fumble.

Stepping in for an injured Trevor Williams last season in Week 9, Davis drew notice and had an immediate impact with a career-high nine tackles in the Chargers' 25-17 win at Seattle. Davis' stay in the starting lineup carried on through the remainder of the season for one of the league's top defensive units.

"It's just fun to watch him, because I know how humble he is, I know how hard he works. But coming from here, it's just such a joy to watch," said Alan Eberhart, one of Davis' head football coaches at Glendale High, via the Chargers website. "It's just so fun to watch at what he's become."

Now, one preseason game is left upon the docket for the Chargers -- and the rest of the NFL -- on Thursday when L.A. takes the short trip north to play the 49ers on NFL Network. Over the Bolts' initial three preseason contests, he's collected five tackles.

Just playing in preseason games is somewhat of a stunning turn for Davis, whose production at BYU waned after a breakout sophomore season and dropped out of the starting lineup as a senior. At a school pro day, though, Davis let his speed do his talking and blazed to a 4.34 40-yard dash. Those scintillating steps got the former high school track star's feet in the Chargers' door.

Since then, those same fleet feet and an ever-improving game have carried him forward and upward as it relates to the Chargers' depth chart.

"To be honest, I don't know what the secret is," Davis said. "I talk to my mom, I talk to my girlfriend every day and they keep me accountable. I think accountability is a big thing.

"I hold myself to a higher standard than I'm used to and I have to reach that standard. I guess I'm doing it right now."

A surprising story of starting success, Davis' time on the NFL radar realistically began at a pro day and he's transformed himself into a pro entering his third season with nine starts and a pair of playoff games to his credit.

Now, a former undrafted free agent, a former Chargers release and a former practice squad player, Davis is a future Week 1 starter it appears.

"It would mean big things," Davis said earning a spot in the starting lineup for the season opener. "Out of Glendale High, not a lot of people come out of Glendale. Then, you know, my mom and I, we've struggled a lot and for me to come out, that shows that anybody can make it."

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