Davis took bumpy road to NFL
Whether his home has been Spokane or Bellingham, Wash., Los Angeles or Cupertino, Calif., Logan, Utah, Miami or Baltimore, Davis has never had a problem adapting and fitting in. As a senior at Central Valley High in Spokane, Davis was voted student body president. When he was a Dolphins rookie, Davis’ home became a gathering spot for certain Miami veterans.
“He’s got an energy that makes it easy for him to bond with anybody, any group,” said wide receiver Chuck Jacobs, who was with the Ravens for much of training camp and was Davis’ teammate at Utah State. “He’s really well-rounded from that standpoint.”
Shon Davis Sr. grew up in Compton, outside Los Angeles, and got enveloped by the drugs and gang lifestyle. He was shot twice. He was determined to avoid the same challenges for his three boys, so he moved his family to Spokane when Will was 4.
After Will’s parents divorced when he was 9, he spent school years with his father in Spokane and most summers with his mother, who moved back to Compton.
“Growing up in that environment, I had to coach them as to their appearance, their dress, their posture, how you look at a person,” said Shon Sr., who is now a pastor. “I wanted them to understand, my strictness wasn’t to confine them. It was to protect them.”
Will initially rebelled against his father, but he soon got a wake-up call. Hewas at his grandmother’s house in the Compton area when gunfire erupted outside.
A couple of years later, his older brother, Shon Jr., was shot at by a gang member as he was crossing the street with a friend. Even before that, Will decided his days in Compton were over.
Back in Spokane, Will excelled in school and sports, won a district-wide award for his leadership and was on his way to a college scholarship. However, his senior year took a tragic turn. Will and his high school girlfriend had a baby girl Aug. 3, 2008. Nevaeh Dena Davis died the day she was born. Will said her rib cage didn’t develop, preventing her lungs from expanding.
“Having that taken away from you, it makes you see life a little different,” said Davis, who has his late daughter’s handprint tattooed on his left arm. “It makes you cherish the life you have. It ultimately changed my attitude going forward.”
Slow to football
Shon Davis Jr.’s middle name is Kohoakahi. His grandmother is Hawaiian, and the name means “The Chosen One.” For years, Will resented what he perceived as favor- able treatment for his brother, older by 14 months. He and Shon Jr. had different personalities and Will made sure they had different friends and interests, too.
Will played basketball, wanting to be the next Allen Iverson. For his first three years of high school, he avoided football.
“I didn’t want to be in my brother’s shadow,” Davis said. “I wanted to be better than him at everything, and football was the one thing I didn’t think I could be better than him at, so I didn’t play.”
Davis relented only after his brother’s promising football career ended when he suffered a significant knee injury. Davis proved to be a natural at cornerback and he was thrilled to have one school — in-state Division II Western Washington — willing to give him a scholarship.
However, during his redshirt freshman year there, the school announced that it was dropping football for budgetary reasons. Some of his older teammates were in tears, but Davis shrugged it off, not believing football was taking him anywhere, anyway. The school honored its scholarships, so for the next year, Davis enjoyed college and satisfied his thirst for competition by playing flag football, intramural dodge ball and basketball.
“I was the star,” Davis said with a grin. “I just killed it.”
Ultimately, though, football drew him back, and Davis faced a decision: Stay at Western Washington and get a free education, or walk on at De Anza College, a junior college in California, where an assistant coach had wooed him for some time.
“You ever get one of those gut feelings about somebody? I had that about him from the beginning,” Tony Santos, now the De Anza head coach, said of Davis. “No other person in my 25 years have I recruited for two years. He was the only one.”
In one year at De Anza, Davis led all California junior college players in interceptions. Suddenly, he had several bigger programs offering scholarships. He chose Utah State, and in two years there, he had five interceptions and became an NFL prospect despite having played just four years of organized football.
“He never took football too seriously,” Shon Jr. said. “But his competitive nature and drive, that’s always been the core of who he is.”
A cultured cornerback
In his first gamefor the cornerback-needy Ravens, Davis made a key pass breakup against Antonio Brown in the team’s Thursday night victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The next week, he tore the ACL in his left knee. Therange of emotions might be a microcosm for Davis’ career.
“I think I was finally about to be the kid that I knew that I would become in this Will Davis has become a world traveler and an aspiring photographer. league, and it was taken away from me,” Davis said.
He didn’t stay down for long. When he wasn’t rehabilitating this offseason, he was visiting Italy and Mexico. Davis, who got his passport before he was drafted, also has been to Sweden and France. His girlfriend, Lisa Mason, a former British Olympic gymnast, lives in the United Kingdom, so he’s spent significant time there as well.
Davis has plans for more traveling in the future. He started an Instagram account where he shares some of his photos.
“He became so cultured so quickly. He values anybody who can give him a new perspective on life,” Shon Jr. said. “He’s really inspired a bunch of people in our family, including me. I got my passport after he started traveling. He set the tone for us not to be afraid of things that you’ve never tried before.”
Shon Sr. considered it a blessing that after Davis was drafted by the Dolphins, Shon Jr.’s job with NBC Universal transferred him to Miami. The two brothers, at odds frequently during their adolescence, lived together and made up for lost time. For years, Will avoided playing football because of his brother. Now, he can’t help but wonder how things would have been if he had started playing earlier.
But he hardly dwells on it. He’s too focused on what’s in front of him.
“I dare anybody to spend an hour with my brother and not want the utmost best for him,” Shon Jr. said. “He has an electric personality. He’s very engaging, avoids negativity. He sees a lot of value in individuals and moments and wants to maximize the right now.”