ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Davis made the most of his second chance last season.
After struggling against Countryside in a season-opening loss, Davis and the Lakewood High football team found themselves down by seven points the next week to Palmetto to start the fourth quarter.
Davis led his team 83 yards and threw the game-tying touchdown. He followed that up with a 35-yard rushing touchdown with a few minutes remaining to seal the victory.
“I knew it was my chance to redeem myself,” Davis said. “The game before against Countryside I played terrible and was the reason we lost. I wasn’t comfortable with the offense and trying to do too much. Then I played within myself, and everything else just came second nature. I knew I was going to bounce back.”
Davis went on to pass for 2,158 yards, rush for 856 yards and accounted for 27 total TDs while leading the Spartans to within a couple of points of a 5A state championship appearance.
Davis, 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, returns for his senior season ranked as a four-star recruit who has 4.37 speed and 39-inch vertical jump.
“Ryan has the rare ability to make something happen when the play breaks down. He just has that “it” factor. I’ve only coached one or two guys like that in my whole career. That’s the stuff you can’t teach. He sees things before it happens. The game is in slow motion to him.”
“I remember I was only 4 and my dad took me to the field to play catch with the football. I immediately fell in love with the game and been playing it ever since,” Davis said.
Davis is following in the footsteps of his brother, Chris, who starred at St. Petersburg Catholic before playing collegiately at Florida State and in the NFL.
“We’ve been basically a football 24/7 family,” said Davis’ father, Willie. “Football is always on in our house. It’s something he grew up playing. Going to camps since he was 9 and having the opportunity to learn from NFL coaches, then playing under me from youth league all the way until ninth grade at Northeast when I was the receivers coach.”
As a sophomore, Davis led Northeast to a 7-4 record and a playoff appearance. He had 2,120 yards passing and 719 rushing with 23 total TDs. But when his little league coach from past years, Dan Mancuso, left at season’s end, Davis and six others went with him.
This season, Davis is getting used to an up-tempo offense that is reminiscent of the University of Oregon put in by new offensive coordinator Marquez Blackwell. Although he is being recruited as a slot receiver, he has definite goals for himself and the team this season.
“This season I want to throw for over 3,000 yards, run for 1,000 and win the state championship,’’ he said. “Last year we took our foot off the gas. But this team is special because we get along so well. Last year we were getting used to each other and the system. Now we know it. When we get back there I’m not going to let us slip.”
It’s this type of leadership that Moore said makes Davis special.
“Ryan has a 3.0 core GPA. And he’s a better person than he is a player,” Moore said. “He’s easy to coach and extremely humble. Most guys are cocky and can’t be coached when they have his kind of talent. I feel a lot better when he’s in the game.”