Pep Hamilton has witnessed a lot of growth from rookie quarterback Davis Mills, watching his steady ascent from a blue-chip recruit in Georgia to now coaching the Texans' third-round draft pick.
The Texans passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been keeping track of Mills ever since his high school days along with his friend, Stanford coach David Shaw, Mills' college coach.
"I had the opportunity to evaluate Davis way back when he was in high school," Hamilton said Tuesday morning. "Good friend of mine, former colleague David Shaw, we often talked about the kid coming out of Georgia and, lo and behold, I had a chance to follow his career at Stanford as well and he shows tremendous promise. He's working hard just like the rest of our guys. We'll see where his skill set will take him."
The Texans are intrigued by Mills' potential. They like what they’ve seen from his approach to practice and meetings and how he’s thrown the football.
Mills’ arm strength, size and classic throwing mechanics are rare and intriguing enough that several NFL general managers and scouts have stated privately he would have likely been a high first-round draft pick next year if he had remained at Stanford for his senior year.
"Davis has come on, he's coming in here, put his head down and gone to work," Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. "He's doing everything he can to learn the intricacies of the offense. It seems like every year we talk about rookies and how hard that transition is to go from college to the NFL. He's in here busting his butt and putting in all the work and doing all the right things.'
Signed to a four-year contract worth $5.22 million that includes a $1.157 million signing bonus, Mills had just 11 starts in college due to a knee injury. Playing in just five games last season, he was an honorable-mention All-Pac-12 selection who passed for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He set a single-game school record with a 504-yard performance against Washington State. As a sophomore, he passed for 1,960 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Because of Mills' background at Stanford, he's fairly advanced in terms of understanding the Texans' offense. Like all rookies, there's still a learning curve to account for.
"Anytime you're exposed to a 'pro-style offense' in college, it's going to help ease the transition," Kelly said. "At the same time, it's still coming in and learning the language and translating everything he's learned. He's doing a good job trying to make that transition as smoothly and quickly as he can. I'm looking forward to him having another good day at work today."
Mills (6-foot-4, 235 pounds), is encourage by his initial steps into the NFL.
“I feel like I’ve done pretty well so far,” Mills said Saturday during a TriStar Productions autograph show at NRG Arena. “Obviously, it’s a new experience for me. Being in Houston, meeting all of the new teammates and coaches, I’ve definitely learned a lot so far. They’ve kind of thrown a lot at us pretty fast, so I’ve had to pick it up fast, at least what I could.
“We all kind of know this is the period where we’re all getting back into shape and really getting the feel of our teammates and route timing and the feel of the offense. It’s been great so far.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128