USC commitment Shaq Davidson leads by example

Gaffney athlete keeps his talent in perspective

Special to The StateFebruary 4, 2014 

Gaffney’s Shaq Davidson, who played in the Shrine Bowl, will sign with USC on Wednesday.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Shaq Davidson tosses a small pink and white basketball into the air and against his chest, repeating the motion over and over. He purses his lips, and a smile forms at the corners of his mouth.

He sincerely doesn’t know what to say and is trying to mask how uncomfortable he is. Davidson is quiet, partly because he’s shy and partly because it’s the way he is. Having to answer a reporter’s questions is probably the last thing on earth he wants to be doing.

“I’m usually pretty quiet,” Davidson said.

Some talented athletes are cocky and have a lot to say because they expect to be heard. The first thing Gaffney High offensive coordinator Donnie Littlejohn noticed about Davidson is that he’s the rare gifted athlete who does his talking on the playing field.

His unassuming demeanor led to what Gaffney coach Dan Jones called one of the most painless recruitments because Davidson never made too much of it. When Davidson’s phone wouldn’t stop buzzing, his mother, Kim Davidson, said she didn’t share his exhaustion over it because Davidson didn’t trouble her with the process.

“That was his phone, not mine,” Kim said. “I was, basically, going to leave it up to him because he’s the one that’s got to be down there. Whatever he decided to do was fine with me.”

A four-star USC commitment according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Davidson will sign with USC at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Gaffney High.

He became a highly touted player by putting the team before himself.

He joined the varsity squad during his sophomore season, and though he played quarterback in the past, Gaffney already had an established quarterback on the team. Realizing that Davidson was too talented to be kept off the field, Jones put Davidson at receiver alongside Quinshad Davis, now a wide receiver at UNC. Davis was the No. 1 receiver for the Indians, but Davidson flourished alongside him.

“I don’t want Shaq to be disappointed, because at the high school level, he’s a great athlete, but when you get to the SEC, they’re all great athletes,” Jones said. “Certainly, that’s a big transition when every athlete is as good as you are, and it’s something that takes time. Hopefully, he’ll just bring his level of play up because he’s a tremendous competitor.”

Davidson had 683 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore before he tore his ACL — good enough to attract a South Carolina scholarship offer that season. In his junior year, Davidson was made the starting quarterback early in the season and led Gaffney to a state championship.

Having Davidson at quarterback for his last two seasons of high school helped the team, but he was recruited to play wide receiver for the Gamecocks. Davidson prefers playing receiver to quarterback, crinkling his nose at the thought of being a quarterback under USC coach Steve Spurrier, a former quarterback who expects a lot out of the position.

“He had just started to learn how to play receiver his eighth or ninth game of the year as a sophomore,” Jones said. “He will develop quickly, I think, especially since he’s been at the quarterback position and knows what those guys are looking at. I think it might even be an advantage for him even if he’s a little behind at first with the route running.”

While Jones is worried about the disappointment he might face at USC if he doesn’t getting the playing time he’s used to, Davidson’s biggest disappointment was when he felt he let the team down because of a knee injury at the end of his senior season that kept him out of the Indians’ first-round playoff game. Boiling Springs upset Gaffney, 48-41, and Littlejohn found Davidson in the locker room an hour after the game was over.

“He was just sitting there and crying,” Littlejohn said. “You could tell that it was more than the season being over. It was that he felt he let his team down. An injury is something you can’t help. It’s very rare that you find football players who think like that – that it’s not about them but it’s what’s best for the team.”

Davidson already looks like a USC football player. At his home in Gaffney, he’s sporting a black T-Shirt with the Gamecocks’ logo over black shorts and has his socks pulled halfway up his calves. He even has a USC beanie on despite being inside on a warm winter day.

A potentially uncomfortable transition awaits Davidson in Columbia. He’ll be back at a position he hasn’t played consistently in two years. And he’ll likely be fighting for playing time as a freshman — a big change from having the ball in your hands on every snap as the quarterback.

If Davidson has any anxiety about USC, he hasn’t shown it. And he’s certainly not going to say it.

“What you see with him is what you get,” Littlejohn said. “You would think that with the ability God blessed him with, he’d be extremely arrogant or cocky, but he’s far from that.”

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