Keelan Doss has a tough act to follow, and it happens to be his own. The UC Davis wide receiver believes he can produce a sensational sequel, and that is why he has returned to the Aggies for his senior season.
No one could have blamed the 6-foot-3, 206-pound Doss if he had decided to enter the NFL draft. There is little left for him to prove at UC Davis after a record-breaking junior season in 2017. He now owns the single-season records for receptions (115), receiving yards (1,499) and 100-yard receiving games (nine).
Doss led all of Division I (FBS and FCS) in receptions per game at 10.5 on his way to becoming a first-team Associated Press All-American and the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He was also one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, which is presented to the top offensive player in FCS.
All of those numbers do not mean as much to Doss as the Aggies’ record in the four years since he arrived from Alameda High School. A fifth-year senior who redshirted in 2015, Doss has yet to enjoy a winning season at UC Davis. Last year’s 5-6 record was a step in the right direction after the Aggies went 3-8 in 2016 and 2-9 in 2015 and 2014. UC Davis has had not a winning season since finishing 6-5 in 2010.
“(Doss) feels like he has unfinished business here at UC Davis,” said Aggies coach Dan Hawkins, who sparked the resurgence in 2017 by returning to his alma mater after Ron Gould was fired. “What a lot of people don’t know is how genuine he is. He’s humble and he’s team-oriented. He looks at the big picture.”
Hawkins added that he did not attempt to sway Doss to stay and would have understood had Doss opted to go.
“We talked about it, but he was already under a lot of pressure,” Hawkins said. “I told him, ‘We’re here for you and I’m here for you no matter what you decide.’ I’m not really surprised that he’s back. I’m excited.”
Doss certainly did not need another person, especially his head coach, trying to tell him what to do. He already had enough people taking sides. As much as he appreciated all that, he could have done without it.
“At the end of the day, it was my decision,” Doss explained. “My decision was ready about a week before the (Jan. 15) deadline (to enter the draft). I weighed everything out. There was a lot of thought going into this process.”
One thought for Doss was wondering whether he had what it will take to play in the NFL. It would be safe to say it will take more than a great pair of hands. Doss readily admits his skills could use a little polishing. His versatility could also use some work because he will be asked to do far more than catch passes.
A rookie receiver could be asked to return kickoffs and punts. He could be asked to tackle kickoff and punt returners. Doss has not had to play on special teams at UC Davis because of his value to the offense.
That may change in 2018, however. Doss played on the punt coverage unit Saturday as UC Davis concluded its spring workouts with an intrasquad scrimmage. He said it was a “mutual” decision with the coaches.
“Some people have said they are surprised that I don’t play on special teams,” Doss said. “I want to show I can do it.”
Want to bet he will?