From 2012-2014, one player for the Texas A&M-Commerce Lions persevered from 1-9 seasons and disappointments to win championships, bowls, and set school records in a fashion that is unconventional to say the least. His name is Deric Davis, a Lion, and one who has the heart of a Lion.
His Father’s Son-
Charles Davis was a standout quarterback in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He set records, won games, and amazed scouts, enough to win a scholarship to the University of Colorado and quarterback the Buffs, eventually becoming one of the first Black quarterbacks in Big 8 history. Deric Davis wanted to be just like his father, and playing quarterback and excelling at it is what he wanted to do.Starting at the age of 5, Deric Davis started the journey to follow in his father’s footsteps. His parents placed him in the Grand Prairie Youth Association and at first was placed as a tight end, but Davis let his feelings be known, “I wanted to be a Quarterback.”
Working his way into Middle School, Davis was a standout at Barnett Junior High in Arlington, Texas. It was apparent from his early days that his strong arm, stout build, and niche for running and scrambling in the pocket were going to be tremendous assets so long as he continued to get better, and get better he did.
“Being at Barnett, that is where there was competition at first. A lot of us guys ended up going to school there and had played against and with each other in the youth association, so I had to earn that starting spot, I had to earn everything, we had a lot of talent where I grew up.”
Entering his high school years, Davis knew the competition would continue. The coaches were impressed with the flame thrower that came from a Junior High just down the street, but the coaching staff at Bowie High in Arlington was adamant about developing players. “Our coaches believed in having us work and develop before getting to Varsity. Freshman on Varsity were very rare, so I played on the Freshman team and developed.” Davis led the Bowie Freshman team to a winning season that was full of success, and there was talk that they had a budding star in the ranks. However, there was an underclassman who was lighting it up on Varsity as the quarterback. Christian Matthews started at Bowie from his Sophomore through Senior seasons, eventually ending up at Kansas to play football for Mark Mangino and the Jayhawks. “Christian was a super player. He was our guy and you knew that from the start. He commanded the offense and he was just a really great player.” The next season, Davis split time on the Junior Varsity and the Varsity as a Sophomore, serving as the defacto back-up to Matthews. “Technically the Varsity had a guy backing him up, but there really was not a lot of confidence in that situation, so they moved me up because they felt better about having me back up Christian if something happened to him.” Davis saw his first varsity action that same year in a blowout playoff win over L.D. Bell High in Hurst. The Vols went 4 rounds deep before bowing out to Euless Trinity that year.Going into his Junior year, Davis understood that Matthews would be the featured guy and accepted his role as a backup, but that did not deter him from working to be the guy. “I basically have always had the attitude I am going to work, work, and work. I am going to do my thing, show the coaches and players what I can do, and be ready when my number is called.” The Vols had another deep run at the playoffs, bowing out to Wylie High in the 3rd round of the playoffs. Davis immediately started working to accomplish two goals; be the Starting quarterback for the Bowie Volunteers, and play Football in College.
Heading into his final year at Bowie, Davis knew that the QB1 job was his to lose, but there were factors that kept him motivated. “A lot of people thought we were going to drop off a lot because Christian had been so successful and we had won games and gone deep into the playoffs. A lot of people would say things like “I have big shoes to fill” or that people were unsure of my ability to lead the team to win and have the same success that we had before. I played with a huge chip on shoulder. I was at school every day during that summer, either by myself or with others putting the work in.” Davis’s first 5 games were played almost angry by his own admission. “I was just serious about people seeing that I had what it took, it was about silencing the doubters and critics and showing them. It is the nature of being a competitor.” Davis led the Vols to yet another district championship, but it would be a playoff win that would be the defining moment.
Slaying The Dragons and Claiming The Spoils-In the first round of the Class 5A playoffs Bowie knocked out Richland High and then blew out Montwood, setting them up against Texas Football Royalty, The Southlake Carroll Dragons at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “Walking into the warm ups, they (Carroll) were hanging outside the locker room. They were big and looked super talented, but you could tell they were trying to intimidate us. We knew what we were up against. They were talented, disciplined, and we knew what they were all about.” That night, Davis completed 17 of 23 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown, out-dueling his Carroll counterpart, future University of Houston Quarterback David Piland. “That was the best game I played in high school. Not too many teams can say they beat Southlake Carroll, that was something I will never forget.” The excitement was soon gone as the Vols bowed out the next round against eventual state champion Abilene High, but none the less capped off a fine season. When the postseason awards came out, Davis cleaned house. He was named Associated Press 5A Offensive Player of the Year, and also was named Offensive MVP by The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. He also took home first team All-State Honors and First team All District honors. “I was so proud of that season because it was not easy, we had tough competition from everywhere, but I was happy with how it turned out.”
Headed For The Valley-
Davis’s college recruiting process was somewhat odd. He had been contacted by numerous schools such as Ole Miss, Kansas State, Tulsa, and TCU. Oregon also had contacted Davis and had set his sights on going to the University of Oregon. It looked being a Duck would be in his cards as his Senior year went on, but when a former Alabama star de-committed and switched to Oregon, they contacted Davis to ask him to take a preferred walk on spot by grey-shirting. “Basically, I would enroll at Oregon and pay my way the first year and earn a scholarship, but having to pay that amount of money and it not being a sure thing would be tough and I could not do that. That is when I started to look into going the Junior College route.”
Davis had been told by coaches due to his size, and only one good season of work, going to a Junior College might be the best way to show that he could play on the College level. It was at this time that Davis was being recruited by smaller Division I schools, such as FCS schools Bucknell, Fordham, Syracuse, and Louisiana Tech. “My regret was rushing the process and passing on the smaller schools, but I wanted to play in front of 50-60,000 people, you know? I wanted to show what I had to premiere schools and programs.”
After deciding to go the JUCO route, Davis looked into Garden City Community and Coffeyville in Kansas and Navarro Junior College and Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, a small town in East Texas. Davis took a trip to Athens and was sold on the Cardinals.
Cardinal Red-Davis arrived on campus and took a red-shirt to learn the ropes of the TVCC playbook during . He came in with another DFW standout in Tucker Carter from Allen High. The two of them would compete in a way that was healthy and mutually beneficial for both. “It pushed us both, and we both got better, it was a competition though. We competed all that Spring and into Fall camp, until we were both told that we would both see the field during the games, so he would start the game run about 3 series, then I would run a series, essentially it was a two quarterback system.” Davis would have a setback when he broke his fibula midway through the season, but Carter would have his own issues as he suffered a major concussion and that forced Davis back into action despite not being fully healed from his fibula. He capped off his career playing in a JUCO bowl game playing on basically one leg. “It did not end well, it was a tough situation to be in.”
After the 2011 season, Davis did not see himself in Athens for the next year. “From a Football standpoint, I really did not see it going anywhere, and they did not really see me being used, so I got released and decided to head back home and go over my options. I thought about a couple of places, until I got a visit from an old friend.” That friend’s name was Kenzee Jackson, a standout Wide Receiver for Texas A&M-Commerce. Jackson visited Davis along with Lion Wideout Tevin Godfrey and they went to workout. Both Jackson and Godfrey were able to see the accuracy and the hot strength of a Davis thrown football which caused Godfrey to contact TAMUC offensive coordinator Dan Lounsbury. The next day, Davis got a phone call from Lounsbury who said that he had seen Davis’s film and also had gotten the word he was someone to look at. Davis scheduled a trip to the Blackland Prairie to see the campus and get a feel for things. “Commerce, the facilities, the school, was so nice and new. It was so much different from Athens, and I decided to commit and go to school there. It was a pretty simple decision.”
Balling on The Blacklands-
Davis arrived on campus and it was not long before he made his impact. “Coach Lounsbury told me that he was bringing in 8 guys to compete for the spot. I told him so long as it was a far competition, I would bring it every day and win the job.” Davis was aided by two quarterbacks who were already on campus, Justin Gomez and Ryan Lusby. “Gomez, he worked to really get me caught up to speed. We practiced and threw all the time, read the playbook, he was a great teammate. Same thing with Ryan, he had the experience from the previous year and helped me out.” The Lions had a lot of hope that they would bounce back from their 1-9 season the year before, the worst record in school history, and when word got around that a former Texas Offensive MVP and First Team all state QB would be pulling the trigger for Guy Morriss’s offense, people started to talk and get excited. However, Davis explains why that season turned into a repeat of the previous one.
“I always felt like we were two teams out there. The offense would only practice with the offense and defense with defense. We were talented, we really were, at every position, but we did not have any chemistry. It made it very hard to really mesh together. That is why we fell short of what our potential was. We also never got to run against each other and get ready for Saturday in a way that was to prepare us for what we were going to see in the live game situation. That rarely happened during the week, we were unprepared for it and it showed.”
The 2012 season had few bright spots, but one occurred in the midst of the Lions losing a game played in front of Davis’s hometown in Arlington at Cowboys Stadium against Midwestern State. Down big, Davis scrambled right and was cut at the knees but stayed upright by rolling over two MSU defenders and racing to the end zone. The play was featured on ESPN and was a Top Ten play. As for The Lions, their lone bright spot was an overtime win over Texas A&M-Kingsville. Davis threw the winning TD pass in pouring rain against a tough Kingsville team. “I remember that game so well, I was calling a lot of stuff on the line, and Coach Lounsbury let me react to what I was seeing on the field by getting in and out of plays. It also showed by beating them we were better than we showed.” The Lions took General Chennault’s rivalry cup, but it would not be long before the disappointments were back. After a loss to Tarleton State, the staff decided to try a highly touted QB named Kevin Vye. By the end of the season, Davis was the starter again, but with little offensive chemistry, the Lions once again went 1-9. Immediately after the game, Coach Guy Morriss resigned, noting it was time for a new era in Commerce.
Bend In The Road-
In The Spring of 2013, Colby Carthel, an imposing 36 year old coach whose father was the head coach at West Texas A&M, came to Commerce to revive a once storied Lions program. Carthel arrived and started things off with a boot camp. “What Coach Carthel did was weed out the guys who did not need to be there to make room for those coming in who we needed to be there. It was tough, and we started with 83 guys and finished with only about 40, maybe a few less, but Coach rewarded us who finished it with shirts that said “We Survived Hell Month.” The feel was totally different than it had been in the previous year.” However, the challenge for Davis was just starting. “Coach Carthel said he was going to bring in some guys to compete, and I told him that as long as it was a fair competition, just like I had told Coach Lounsbury, I was good with it, I was going to work and earn my time.”
At first, things did not go as planned. Two Quarterbacks arrived on campus that would go at it for the QB1 spot. Harrison Stewart was a tall, strong armed pocket passer from California who had played at the University of Nevada, and the other was a guy from just 30 minutes down the road, former Auburn Quarterback Tyrik Rollison. Rollison was tall, had a rifle for an arm, had won a state championship, played Division I Football and was an All-American at Tyler Junior College. “We had played against each other in JUCO, being in the same conference, so I knew who he was and what he came with.” Davis said. At the end of Fall camp, Davis received news that he did not expect and certainly did not want, he was third string behind Rollison, who was the starter, and Stewart, who was second string.
Despite the disappointment, Davis kept the faith that good things would happen.” I just kept on plugging and did my thing and was ready for when my name would be called. That would not be long.”
A Call Answered
In the second week of the 2013 season, The Lions faced a top 20 ranked Delta State team at Cowboys Stadium. Down by 2 and needing a touchdown to pull away, Davis was inserted at slot receiver, took a swing pass from Rollison and fired to a wide open Stacey Howard for a 45 yard score. The Lions pulled the shocker that night and there was doubt Davis’s pass was the momentum swinger. The Lions were 3-2 headed into a big game against Texas A&M-Kingsville. With the game in hand, Rollison went down with a high ankle fracture. Stewart became the starter, but Davis now had guarantees that he would see playing time in the Lion’s goal line offense and also in some other situations. He had no idea what would transpire 7 days later.
Record Breaker-Harrison Stewart got his first start against McMurry, a high scoring team but that night would belong to Deric Davis. The Lions scored 65 points that night, and Davis scored 30 of them from the goal line offense, running for 5 touchdowns and throwing for another. His 5 carries got him the record for most rushing TD’s in school history. “That night made me feel like I was part of the team. I had felt not really part of it until that point, but that night was a turning point, I felt I was part of the new program, and it helped me to work harder and push for better things.” The Lions would have a massive turnaround going 7-5 and landing a spot in the LiveUnited Texarkana Bowl, their first postseason appearance since the NCAA D2 playoffs in 1991.
After the season, Davis looked back and had to assess his situation. With Rollison and Stewart both coming back, the thought of transferring was high on his mind, but Davis consulted a higher power in making this decision. “I am a God-fearing person, I prayed about it and over it and I felt God say “just be still.” So I did, and it was a good thing that I did.” Some news would come soon and rejuvenate Davis and his desire to be in Commerce. Harrison Stewart had decided to take a red-shirt for a semester, something that would only happen in the Division II realm, and Davis had a strong spring game. Davis now knew he would see the field, but was not anticipating the surprises.
The first honor came when Davis was elected team captain. “That meant a lot to me, to be honored like that by teammates showed me something.” Davis saw action in every single game but then Rollison went down again against Eastern New Mexico. The Lions had been beating the Greyhounds soundly but Rollison was knocked out and the Hounds made a run to close the gap. Davis came in and finished the job to knock off the Hounds and set up a match up with blood rival Tarleton State. Rollison was not 100 percent, so Davis got the nod to start and made the most of his chance. The Lions routed the Texans, took the President’s Cup and Davis went 24 for 32 for 324 yards and 2 touchdown passes, putting the Lions in a firm first place with the 53-25 win. Though Rollison rehabbed quickly and got back, Davis had his shot to prove himself, and the conference took note. The Lions ran through the rest of the conference and won the conference for the first time since 1990 and won the Heart of Texas Bowl later that December with Davis tossing two touchdowns. It was a memorable season for the Lions but for Davis as well.
Graduating to Greatness-
Davis graduated with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 2014 in addition the Bachelor’s degree he already received in the same field, but his heart was set on Football. A singular opportunity presented itself, and he was signed with the San Angelo Bandits of the Indoor Football League. It was a chance to play pro and get to where he wanted to be, but an injury from almost a year prior derailed his hopes. “When I dove for a touchdown against Stephen F. Austin, I tore a major muscle in my shoulder. I popped it back into place during the game, but it was still there. After a while, I knew I needed to do the surgery so I decided to do it in DFW. It cost a lot and the rehab was long, but it was worth it, for sure.”
Davis is now rehabbed. He has experienced a love affair with a game that has broken so many men. He came to Commerce with nothing, and left with two degrees, a championship ring, a bowl win, and a school record, not to mention an all time come from behind win and a signature performance in his Senior year. Though the Arena Leagues did not pan out, Davis has his sights on Canada and playing the in CFL. Some might ask, “why keep trying football?” Davis has quick and sharp reply. “I am in my twenties, I can still play football and that is what I want to do. I have the rest of my life to work a 9-5, but I have a talent and I have confidence God will allow me to use it for his glory.”
Those words could only come from man with the heart of a Lion.