Only four weeks into the 2004 season, quarterback Rohan Davey is being touted as possibly the best ever to have played in NFL Europe.
The New England Patriots' No. 3 signal-caller is passing up a storm for the unbeaten Berlin Thunder, leading them to a 4-0 start for the first time in franchise history.
The Berlin newspapers have christened him "Gold-Arm" and "Dynamit-Davey." And it's not just the media who are excited by his potential. Those who live and breathe NFL Europe and have witnessed the nurturing of more than a decade's worth of quarterback talent overseas are also singing Davey's praises.
"He is a very gifted guy in terms of his ability and especially physically," said Doug Flutie's former Boston College head coach Jack Bicknell, who is now at the helm of the Scottish Claymores. "He has big, strong arms, he's aggressive, and when he tucks the ball and runs he's a formidable opponent. He reminds me of Daunte Culpepper in size and ability."
Bicknell, who nurtured NFL passers Jon Kitna and Kelly Holcomb with the Barcelona Dragons and has faced every successful quarterback during NFL Europe's 11-year existence, added: "He's certainly up there among the best quarterbacks we've ever seen play over here. If he gets the opportunity to play in the NFL he's sure to prosper."
Davey orchestrated a composed fourth-quarter comeback drive last weekend to record a 14-10 victory against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Chad Hutchinson and the Rhein Fire. During a nine-play, 78-yard possession he completed a key 45-yard pass on third-and-long to move the ball to within a yard of the end zone and set up the winning touchdown. The Patriots-allocated quarterback suffered two uncharacteristic interceptions during the close victory, but held his nerve with the game on the line.
"Rohan is just outstanding," Thunder head coach Rick Lantz said. "He hits the big passes but also makes all the other throws along the way. He is the complete package at quarterback and is always in command. If he continues to play this way, we will keep winning."
In three stunning opening games, Davey completed 39 of 59 pass attempts for 549 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception. Not even his illustrious predecessors in Europe -- among them Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and Brad Johnson -- can match such a lightning start to a season.
Davey twice has been named the league's offensive player of the week, and his dominant 127.9 passer rating was the best in league history after three games, surpassing Warner (105.7), Kitna (93.2) and the lesser-known Pat Barnes (118.3).
A third-stringer behind two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady in England but a hero in Berlin, Davey is quick to credit others within the Thunder organization for his success.
"It's a combination of having a good position coach in Steve Logan, a good offensive coordinator in Don Eck and good players around me," he insisted. "Then from my point of view, I have taken the opportunities to play football, watch film and get better as a player."
History suggests Davey and the Thunder will reach the World Bowl XII if their winning streak is extended to five games when the Amsterdam Admirals visit Berlin's Olympic Stadium on May 1. Every team to open 5-0 (the 1998 Rhein Fire, 1995 Amsterdam Admirals and 1991 London Monarchs) has progressed to the championship game. Only the Admirals failed to win the title.
"From the beginning of camp we've wanted to win the World Bowl championship, and now we think we're in a position to do that," Davey said.