IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) special teams coach Billy Miller noticed that the DeSoto, Texas, center stayed down after the snap on extra points. It was a small detail, but one he could exploit with a player such as Drake Davis.
Davis, who high jumped 6-7 and long-jumped 21-5 last year on the track team at Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, Va.), leaped over the center just after the snap, took a second hop and blocked the point-after attempt, then picked up the bouncing ball at the 11 and raced the remaining 89 yards for two points. By that night, the play was running in a loop on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“We were watching them on video all week and we noticed the center didn’t move,” Davis said. “My job wasn’t to catch the ball, but the ball just bounced up into my hands. It wasn’t anything special. I was just doing my job.”
So far this season, Davis’ primary job for the Ascenders, the No. 12 team in the Super 25 rankings, is scoring points in the most efficient manner possible. Davis has three catches this season — all for touchdowns, setting a team record with 139 yards with just two catches last week to lead IMG past Cocoa, 49-7. He has carried the ball once this season — for a touchdown. He’s made two kickoff returns, one for a 90-yard touchdown. And of course, the one time he blocked a point-after kick, he scored two points. It wouldn’t shock anyone if he found a new way to score this Saturday when IMG travels to No. 18 Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.).
“Nothing he does any more surprises me,” Ascenders quarterback Shea Patterson said. “You should see some of the plays he makes in practices.”
Patterson at least was forewarned. He’s known Davis since the two were in middle school, playing for different teams in tournament basketball and Davis was dunking on everyone. IMG football coach Kevin Wright had not been in his new job very long when he heard that Davis was coming to play for the Ascenders.
The problem was Wright didn’t know who Davis was.
“I am sitting in here in the spring and we have all these college coaches come in,” Wright said. “The wide receiver coach from Texas A&M (Aaron Morehead) who played for the Colts comes in and we’re talking and he says, ‘I hear Drake Davis is coming to IMG.’ I said, ‘Who’s Drake Davis?’ He starts laughing and says, he didn’t play football last year, he played soccer and is one of the best soccer players in America, but he’s also an incredible athlete.’ ”
Morehead had Wright pull up some video on Davis when he played wide receiver as a sophomore at Dunham School (Baton Rouge, La.). Wright was impressed, but he didn’t get to meet Davis until later on the summer when Davis was playing in a national 7 on 7 event.
“I said, ‘Drake, I’ve been told you’re coming to IMG.’ He told me he was working on it. His mother and mentor told him if he got two A’s in summer school classes, he could come to IMG. He got the A’s and called us in mid to late July and said, ‘I’m coming.’
In an age of specialization, Davis isn’t sure yet whether he’s a better football, basketball, soccer or track and field athlete.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I would guess running track is my best sport since I won state two years in a row (at Fork Union). Running track gives me better technique to run in football too.”
Davis, who is looking at Ole Miss, LSU, Florida State and Texas A&M fell out of many recruiting rankings when he didn’t play football last season. One reason recruiters haven’t always kept up with Davis is he’s changed schools often. As a freshman, he was at St. Stanislaus (Bay St. Louis, Miss.). As a sophomore, he was at Dunham, then last year, he opted for track and field and soccer instead of football at Fork Union.
At 6-4 and 215 pounds and with state championship speed in sprints, it would be easy to just tell Davis to go deep and jump for the ball. On IMG’s first play from scrimmage against Cocoa, that’s exactly what Patterson did, hitting Davis for a 69-yard touchdown pass. However, the play that Davis made on 41-yard touchdown catch against DeSoto was more impressive to Wright.
“I’ve just watched him develop in the short time that we’ve had him here as a receiver,” Wright said. “His whole life, people have been throwing him deep balls, so to me, it was gratifying when against DeSoto, they were in cover zero, we had a check on that as soon as they were on man, we would throw a slant across the middle. It was great to see him recognize the defense, drive the defender back and then come back for the ball. To me, that was a football play.”
Davis, whose favorite soccer team is Real Madrid, credits the other football (soccer) for helping his athleticism.
“I wanted to play soccer my junior year, so I wouldn’t have any regrets,” Davis said. “It’s a challenging sport. Most athletes want to challenge themselves and soccer is one of the toughest sports. It’s non-stop.”
It also gives him another way to score for the Ascenders.
“I’ve told my coaches if they need a second-string kicker, I’m there,” he said.