football Edit

LSU commit Davis breaking mold of elite football recruit

Drake Davis

ORLANDO, Fla. –- Drake Davis started the process of learning to play piano as a seventh-grader, sometime in 2010. Today, the LSU commit can pass as a trained pianist despite being 100 percent self-taught. He’s come a long way in six years, even if his initial motivation for pursuing the craft seems a bit frivolous.

“I remember that song “Handlebars” came on my iTunes –- you know ‘I can ride my bike with no handlebars’ -- and I was like, ‘I’m bored, man, and I want to know how to play that song,’” Davis said. “My family has a grand piano, so I got on YouTube and learned how to play it. I know how to actually play now, but that’s when I first started learning. It was the first song I learned.”

Davis does things like this from time to time. His massive personality comes equipped with nuance and quirks. It’s one of the reasons why the Rivals250 wide receiver isn’t interested in fitting the tired mold of “football recruit.” He’s as three-dimensional as characters come.

Most All-American high school football players don’t walk away from the game for a full year to play a season of soccer, after all. Then, Davis never much cared about what most people do. His decision to take his junior year off from football to pursue another sport was his and his alone.

“With soccer, it was about me not wanting to have any regrets.” Davis says following his second Under Armour All-America practice in Orlando. “I grew up playing soccer and never had the chance to play in high school. It’s about me reaching my full potential in every sport I play. That’s all it was, but people still make a big deal.”

That’s where the detractors enter the room. These days, elite football stars are supposed to concern themselves with football and football only. But Davis stands against such a silly expectation. The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy senior is self aware enough to know what’s been said about him. He’s read along as reporters use his lost season to question his dedication to football and answered those sorts of questions from college coaches.

He’s also been forced to answer the question of why he’s attended three different high schools in four years. IMG Academy head coach Kevin Wright dismisses concerns over Davis' pre-college path.

“If you know anything about Drake, he grew up with a single-parent home,” Wright said. “His mom has been around, but he’s also lived with another family for a period of time. He’s had to grow up pretty quick in life. Not everyone has the ability to control their circumstances when you’re that young. He’s had to overcome a lot of adversity that people have no idea about and he doesn’t talk much about.”

Those sorts of things comes up a lot when discussing Davis. His coaches and teammates mention “personal struggles” and “adversity” a lot when the wide receiver is the topic of conversation. Davis doesn’t much like talking about his past and his friends don’t take it upon themselves to do so, either.

“I know some personal stuff about him that he’s told us, but it’s not really my place to share that stuff,” said Robert Hainsey, who played this season alongside Davis at IMG. “He’s just an amazing dude.”

Everyone will, however, talk about Davis feats of athleticism. The fact that he jumped over the opposing center to block an extra point in an early-season game has been well documented. The play was broadcast on ESPN after all. The fact that Davis holds his own on the basketball court against five-star power forward Jonathan Isaac, and IMG classmate, on a regular basis is less publicized.

“I guard Isaac in pickup,” said Davis, who intends on playing hoops in addition to football at LSU. “I do pretty well. I held him to three points last time and you can tell him I said that.”

A state champion long jumper, Davis’ athletic calling cards are his athleticism and speed. The gift he’s been given on that front has made him one of the fastest prospects in the 2016 class. It’s why he’s spent the last few years trying to make the most of it. Davis played basketball and football as a high school freshman. As a sophomore, he participated in football and track. His junior year was one of soccer and track.

As a senior, it’s football. And here stands Davis on Dec. 30 of his senior year, wearing the uniform of an All-American and coordinated as one of America’s best football players. In this setting, it’s not hard to figure out why he’s happy with his somewhat unconventional choices.

“Nobody has ever asked me what kinds of things I like or what I’m into or why I tried all these sports and other things,” Davis says laughing, simultaneously conducting an interview and joking with teammates after a morning practice. “They just see I didn’t play football last year and decide I don’t love football and say it over and over.

“I wouldn’t be here on a hot, sunny day playing and practicing right now if I didn’t love football, man.”

Either way, there’s plenty of football ahead for Davis. There’s plenty of basketball, too. There will probably be some piano and may even be a few track events. Davis is going to continue being Davis. That won’t change. And neither will his worldview.

“I just don’t want to have any regrets,” Davis said. “I guess that’s the way I live. That’s the best way to live. I’m just me.”