Chasing an NFL dream: Keelan Doss of UC Davis shows why he could soon dazzle on Sundays

Keelan Doss would have worked out in a parking lot, a gravel pit or on the side of a mountain.

He would have run, jumped and caught in searing heat or a white-out blizzard.

This is what Doss does: compete. No excuses. Just get after it.

On Friday morning, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound UC Davis record-setting receiver worked out on a football field, sometimes in the driving rain, in front of 18 NFL scouts. Each was armed with a stopwatch, clipboard and a team logo.

It was formally called UCD Pro Day, a common event each spring across the country on college campuses. This is the time of year when NFL folks bear down on the draft, with an extra eye on signing undrafted rookie free agents.

Scouts from Oakland, Baltimore, Green Bay and all points between wanted another up-close view of Doss. They know he can catch. It’s right there on film, and in games, many of which included NFL folks in attendance.

The scouts wanted to see how high Doss could jump, how far he could soar, and how fast he could cover 40 yards with stop watches greeting him at the finish line. Doss recorded a best of 4.45 seconds in the 40 and jumped high enough to register looks of satisfaction on the faces of the stone-faced observers. The scouts don’t talk publicly about prospects, but it is no secret that Doss is on the draft radar, and he is faster in shoulder pads and a ball in his hands.

UCD doesn’t generally draw an NFL crowd, but Doss is no ordinary player. He’s a generational one who was lightly recruited out of high school in Alameda and blossomed at UCD.

He was the most-accomplished, most-decorated and most-talented player for UCD in 2018, the best team in the program’s 100-year history. If Ken O’Brien isn’t the greatest player in UCD football history, Doss just might be. O’Brien was part of the famed 1983 first-round NFL quarterback draft that included John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

Doss was one of nine UCD seniors who performed in front of scouts Friday. Doss was the primary draw but there he was pointing out the efforts of teammates to scouts.

And this is the sort of guy Doss is: He pushed his Pro Day back to Friday to heal a sore pectoral from an injury incurred during the February NFL Combine, the true Underwear Olympics, and to help his UCD mates receive some NFL looks.

“I wanted as many scouts as we could get, so they could get as much as exposure they could,” Doss said.

None of this surprises UCD coach Dan Hawkins. Same with UCD assistant head coach Mark Speckman, who said of Doss, “He’s just amazing.”

Said Doss of character, “I feel that’s one trait people can have or work on. Being a good person, treating people the right way.”

“He’s off the charts,” Hawkins said of Doss as a player and a person. “He graduated in December, and the guy could walk into anyone’s business right now and be a pro. He happens to be a professional football player.

“People want to play professional football, but can you be professional? Keelan is. He comes in early, leaves late. He’s studies the playbook. He’s dependable. Takes care of business. That’s the guy you want babysitting your kid, marrying your daughter.”

Or catching passes short, medium or long.

Doss has workouts scheduled next week with the 49ers and his childhood favorite team, the Raiders. Oakland coach Jon Gruden and his staff studied Doss during a week of drills in the Senior Bowl in January.

Doss was star struck when he ran into Gruden in an elevator, and speechless when Gruden said, “Hey, Doss!”

Doss has been projected in mock drafts to go anywhere from the second round to the seventh, but the mock experts don’t carry stopwatches and talk to Doss.

And he feels and hears the rumbles. How good can a guy be from UC Davis? Aren’t NFL draftees only coming from FBS schools such as Alabama, Clemson, USC, Ohio State, Michigan and scores of other NFL pipeline programs?

The best answer is this: Those making draft decisions understand if a player is a player, or if he is not.

“You control your own destiny,” Doss said. “How good do you want to be? I don’t care if it’s UC Davis or Alabama, it’s football, and I compete. My mindset is that I’m the best player on the field. Hard work and consistency, and this is something I’ve dreamed of doing.”

He added, “You see a lot of guys come from smaller schools (into the draft), and some become stars. Why? You work hard.”

The NFL dream is a Doss family deal. The most nervous person Friday wasn’t Doss. He never frets.

The frantic one was his mother, Tammie Chambless, who paced the Aggie Stadium concourse with an umbrella, peeking when she felt it was safe.

“So proud of him,” she said of her son.

Doss’ father was also on hand, as was his grandfather, who frequents a donut shop in Lodi several days a week to sip coffee, down tasty eats and talk about this receiver from UCD.

Doss has tattoos on his chest and arms that honor family.

“It means a lot to me that they were here,” Doss said. “They even came in the rain.”

Sounds like a Doss thing to do.

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