The worst-kept secret in NFL Europe was revealed on the giant screen of the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, yesterday. Nobody was surprised, but the collective rosters of the Berlin Thunder and Frankfurt Galaxy attending World Bowl XII media day still applauded in unanimous appreciation.
Rohan Davey, the Patriots' quarterback and undisputed star of the NFL development league's 2004 season, was officially named MVP. "It means a lot," said Davey, who had a 105.6 quarterback rating, leading the Thunder to Saturday's World Bowl and a 9-1 record, which equaled the league mark set by the London Monarchs in 1991 and Amsterdam Admirals in 1995.
"Any time you come into a league, regardless of whether it's here, college or the NFL you always want to put your best foot forward and play as well as you can. To be recognized for that let's me know that I've done good things.
"I think I've performed at a high level this year. There are a lot of other guys that have also played well, but I guess I deserve it."
Davey was naturally named to the NFL Europe All-League team. He was joined by favorite receiver and fellow Patriot Chas Gessner, who snared 38 receptions for 566 yards and six touchdowns. A third Patriot, tackle David Pruce of the Galaxy, also was honored.
NFL Europe has played an important role in developing quarterbacks for the NFL -- 26 signal-callers have gone on to start after spending time abroad. In 2003, 8 of the 32 NFL teams started a quarterback with NFL Europe experience, including Carolina Panthers starter Jake Delhomme.
With Davey's three-month European adventure just days from conclusion, he might be forgiven for looking ahead to stamping a claim on the Patriots' No. 2 quarterback slot. But the chance to add a World Bowl ring to the Super Bowl jewelry won just a few months ago keeps him focused on the task at hand.
"It doesn't matter what you came over here for or what your intentions were when you first stepped off the plane," he said. "You ultimately come over here to win football games and that's what we've done. We don't want to go home saying we're 9-1, but we lost the World Bowl. We expect nothing other than to go home with that trophy."
In a dress rehearsal for the World Bowl, the Thunder crushed Frankfurt, 41-0, in the final week of the regular season, despite Davey splitting time with third-stringer Marc Dunn of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Davey says he is not fooled by the lopsided score, nor is he concerned that the tables will turn.
"It should be a really competitive game, but I still expect us to come out with a win," he insisted. "It will come down to execution and I think I've improved on my accuracy and recognizing what defenses are trying to do. I'm taking ownership of all the things that go into being a good quarterback."
Less than 24 hours after his curtain call, Davey will return to New England, via a Sunday night civic celebration in Berlin if victorious, or through the anonymity of Frankfurt airport if not. Once home he will barely miss a step.
"I'm going to go back and do some personal training and work out in time to be ready for training camp," he explained. "I need to be in better condition. I'm in good shape and my weight is good, but you can always add some extra effort and that's what I'm going to do for the next month."
Since Damon Huard's departure for Kansas City, Davey now has only one goal in New England.
"I expect to go in and win the position, there's no two ways about it," he said. "I was in contention for it last year and this is my third year with the team, so I feel like I'm ready to take the next step. The only goal for me is to become the No. 2 guy and now I feel I'm ready to really contribute if I have to."
Despite winning the MVP, Davey is not tempted to wonder what opportunities might lie ahead either with the Patriots or elsewhere in the NFL.
"I don't look that far because Tom [Brady] is the starter and he's a great quarterback," he added. "My goal is to just go in and establish myself as a solid backup in case something does happen. When this is all over that's all I'll be thinking about."