USA TODAY has been recognizing the nation’s top high school athletes for more than 30 years. As we prepare to announce the 2014 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Football Team in a few months, we’ll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. Today, we’re catching up with MacArthur (Hollywood, Fla.) football coach Buster Davis, who was an ALL-USA linebacker in 2001 from Mainland (Daytona Beach, Fla.), who went on to be a captain at Florida State and an NFL linebacker.
Buster Davis knew he was accepting a challenge when he became the head football coach at MacArthur (Hollywood, Fla.) this past March. The Mustangs have had only two winning seasons in the past 10, with an overall record of 33-76. MacArthur’s region includes Miramar, which is looking to make it to the state title game for the third time in the past six years.
A lot of the talented football players in MacArthur’s school district are already gone, having fled to Miramar or Hallandale or private school powers such as St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale). Davis may have scared a few others off with his tough talk as well.
“They haven’t experienced success in years,” Davis said by phone after teaching an economics class. “We have an old-school mentality. I’m rough. I want greatness on every play. It’s going to be a process. You get the players to believe what your system is and once you get a few wins under your belt, you develop a program where players don’t want to leave.”
Davis said he’s willing to be patient, to do things the right way. At this point in his career, he wants a little consistency.
Davis played for four NFL teams from 2007 to 2009: the Arizona Cardinals; Detroit Lions; Indianapolis Colts, and Houston Texans. After being cut by the Texans in 2009, his first coaching experience was as the secondary coach at Glenville (W.Va.) State in 2010. The next season, he became the linebackers coach at the University of South Dakota.
“I didn’t know him that well when I hired him,” said former South Dakota coach Ed Meierkort. “I knew of him, with my son being a huge Seminoles fan. We had just gone from Division II to (Football Championship Subdivision) Division I and I was trying to surround myself with former Division I players, hoping some of that would rub off on the other players. He’s a Florida kid, through and through, and we had a number of Florida kids on our team. He communicates well with kids. Guys who have played at a high level can communicate what it takes to compete.”
When Meierkort was fired after a 6-5 season in 2011, Davis was also out of a job. He spent the 2012 season as the head coach at Duval Charter (Jacksonville), then lasted only a few months before resigning as the head coach at Admiral Farragut (St. Petersburg), a few months before the 2013 season. Last season, he was the defensive coordinator at Lakeview (Campti, La.), before returning this March to his home state for the job at MacArthur.
“Anywhere you go, you have to pull out some positives, even if it was not the best situation for you,” Davis said. “When you’re dealing with amateurs, you’re dealing with parents. Ultimately, I would like to coach in college but I do like the high school experience. It has been a good deal for me. I enjoy seeing kids take knowledge that you’ve gained and apply it on Friday. I think I am a better coach than I was a player. It’s not all about the X’s and O’s. Sometimes, it’s about the Jimmies and the Joes.”
MacArthur started the season Aug. 21 with a 45-7 loss to Monarch (Louisville, Colo.), which won a state championship in 2012, last week at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Friday, the Mustangs play at Hallandale.
“I did it for the experience, the experience of playing an out-of-state team,” Davis said of the Monarch game. “I knew what we were in for when we evaluated film on them. That game taught my kids you have to be physical on every play. Down here, with all the spread offenses, that kind of power-I football doesn’t exist. We wanted our kids to play every play and not quit.”
When he needs advice or inspiration, Davis said he’ll call former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden or John Maronto, his former coach at Mainland (Daytona Beach).
Meierkort, who now lives in Central Florida, saw MacArthur’s game with Monarch.
“The team they were playing was a lot more established,” Meierkort said. “I think Buster can get kids motivated. As a former NFL and big-time player, you have to dummy it down a little. He has done a good job with delegating authority with his assistants. That’s a sign of maturity.”