Feb. 28—Isaiah Davis hadn’t ran out on the football field in a long, long, long time.
Try 415 days since the last time he played a meaningful game. And that was at the Class 6 state championship game for Joplin all the way back on Nov. 30, 2019 against DeSmet.
While Davis practiced throughout the fall and took part in several scrimmages, the feeling never compared to playing an official game.
Until last Friday for Division I FCS powerhouse South Dakota State — his collegiate debut no less.
“It was good… I was happy to be back out there with my guys,” Davis said. “It had been a whole fall. When spring started, we knew we needed to go show out. I was really thankful to get the opportunity to play on the football field again because it has been a long time. It was a year and three months. Low key, there were some extra butterflies at kickoff. We hit each other at practice several times. We have had scrimmages, but butterflies went through my stomach for sure.”
Davis saw limited action in his debut. But he certainly made the most of his time on the field, highlighted by an 18-yard reception over the middle from quarterback Mark Gronowski early in the second quarter to push the Jackrabbits into Northern Iowa territory.
The drive culminated in a touchdown when Gronowski hit wideout Jaxson Janke for a short touchdown pass to make the score 10-7. SDSU went on to defeat UNI 24-20.
“For me, that’s what I needed to get rid of the doubt,” Davis said. “It was good to get that out of the way and know I can do this. That built my confidence up, so like, now I know… I have done it before. I can keep doing it.”
Davis said there are both pros and cons he can take from his first game.
“The screens and routes going downfield were all right,” he said. “As a college athlete, it’s different from high school. You are going out and you are on TV. You are always being watched. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to seeing every week this spring and I’m looking forward to in the years to come.”
Beyond his high-level play as a tailback dating back to his days at Joplin, the immediate trait that stood out to SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier was Davis’ personality when the coach first started recruiting him.
“He’s kind of a quiet, serious, no frills type of guy,” Stiegelmeier said. “His family was the same way. Very supportive. He was the whole package.”
And what has stood out to Stiegelmeier so far about Davis as a true freshman is his physical maturity.
“He’s ready to play at our level,” Stiegelmeier said. “Even more than that, there are a lot of guys like that, but they can’t handle that next step mentally whether it’s the nerves or the playbook. He handles it all. I would say he’s mature in every way and ready to play. He’s on all his players. He expects perfection. He played running back at a high-level in high school, so he knows what it takes. I would say the hard-work, the making him do the drill perfectly over and over has kind of honed him into the guy he is right now.”
Davis, who stands at 6-foot-1, also appears slimmer. He now sits at 220-pounds versus when he weighed in at 230 in high school.
“The workouts are a lot more intense, I would say,” Davis said. “We were squatting three times a week in the fall. At Joplin, we were only back squatting on Monday and press squatting on Friday. The weight in the fall was always heavy. We were only putting up the heavy weight and always pushing yourself. Obviously since spring season, we have backed off, but I played last year with a lot of baby fat. The workouts are turning into muscle and it’s starting to payoff.”
Davis said he’s been focused on being versatile with his game and doing whatever his team needs to be successful.
“I’m doing whatever the coach needs whether that’s playing wing on a goal line set or getting a first down when it’s third down and you screen,” he said. “It’s whatever. I think I have built myself to play in all aspects, so I can play all four downs.”
And Stiegelmeier loves having that versatility at tailback.
“He’s the whole package,” Stiegelmeier said. “He can block. He can obviously run the ball and he has got great hands. Along with his maturity, I’m excited about his future.”
For the fans back home, Davis has a message:
“I appreciate the love,” Davis said. “I see people on Facebook sharing posts that I’m playing. I know right now I’m not getting the looks I am, but I want people to keep giving love and keep supporting. It’s not me, but the South Dakota State football team.”
#Joplin #running #Davis #impressing #versatility