Rulon Davis always knew he wanted to be in the military. His father had been a Marine. Rulon grew up in Covina, California, but at age thirteen, he chose to attend the Marine Military Academy in Texas. He returned to California for high school and played football, but his resolve to join the Marines after high school never wavered.
Upon graduating high school in 2001, Rulon immediately enlisted. He was at boot camp on September 11th, expecting war to follow, Rulon awaited deployment, but instead he was released from active duty in 2002 and placed in the reserves. In 2003, Rulon enrolled in Mt. San Antonio College, a junior college in California; he played football and generated some impressive stats, but that March he received the news—He was being deployed to Iraq.
Rulon served for six months as an avionics technician in a helicopter squadron. While overseas, his passion for football, ignited by his experience at Mt. San Antonio, only intensified:
“I pulled from football while over in Iraq. That kept my motivation, because that’s what I wanted to do as soon as I got back—gotta play football, gotta play football. So that kept my spirits up while over there.” (qtd. in Gray Cladwell, “Fighting Through Adversity,” Denver Broncos)
When Rulon returned home, several schools were interested in having him play. After visiting University of California, Berkeley, he knew it was the place for him. According to an article published by Doc Bear in the Mile High Report, Rulon was a big personality—charismatic, confident, driven, and intelligent. At UC Berkeley, he double majored in sociology and African-American studies.
Despite injuries, Rulon was a standout defensive end in the PAC-12. In his senior year, he won the Bob Tessier Award, given to the Golden Bears’ most improved defensive lineman. He attributes much of his football success to his military experience:
“The marines teach a spirited core—always faithful, honor, courage, commitment, leadership traits, discipline—all that stuff carries over into life, not just football. Mental toughness, overcoming adversity, that’s everything I’ve been taught and everything I’ve been put through. So when it comes to football, that stuff is secondary. I don’t even think about having to push myself or worry about a little nagging injury. It’s second nature.” (qtd. in Cladwell, Denver Broncos)
Rulon signed to the Denver Broncos as a free agent after an invite to the 2009 NFL combine. Unfortunately, he was not there for long. His injury history was too extensive, too risky, but Rulon was thankful for the opportunity and characteristically resilient, “To just be a draft prospect is great in my book. No matter how well I do.” (qtd. in Gerald Nicdao, “Rulon Davis is Tough, Mean, and Not Ready to Give Up NFL Dream,” Bleacher Report)