When Stephen Davis Jr. got his first college offer from South Carolina as an eighth grader, he was confused.
“At first, I was like, an offer? What is that?” Davis Jr. said. “My dad told me about it, but I wasn’t worried about it then.”
Davis Jr.’s dad is Stephen Davis, the former Auburn and Carolina Panthers running back. Having been in Davis Jr.’s shoes, Davis is giving his son wisdom on how to navigate the recruiting process as a sophomore just as he gave his son his “football genes.”
But Davis Jr. is looking to forge his own path.
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“The boy grew up in a football family, and he grew up playing Pee Wee and Pop Warner, so he’s just been around it all his life,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “He’s got good football sense as well as good football genes. The good Lord made that boy to play football.”
Once Davis Jr. understood the significance of his first college offer, he used it as motivation to work harder to get more offers. He would look up other defensive backs in his class that were also getting offers to try and be better than them.
More offers didn’t take long to come. Clemson followed with an offer in his eighth grade year, and now the defensive back has offers from several SEC and ACC schools, including his dad’s alma mater, Auburn.
Though Davis Jr. thinks his dad wants him to go to Auburn, Davis said it’s ultimately his son’s decision. It’s a decision college coaches will have to wait a while longer for because Davis Jr. said he isn’t planning on committing anytime soon on the advice of his dad.
“It’s all his decision,” Davis said. “If he asks me questions about Auburn, I had a great experience there. If that’s somewhere he would love to go to, I would be proud, but the decision’s all his.”
Like many sons of football greats who turn into talented football players themselves, Davis Jr. wants to be his own man. He said he never wanted to play running back — his body is likely too tall and lean for that anyway.
Davis Jr. isn’t the only highly touted recruit in the Midlands with a dad who played professional football. Spring Valley linebacker and Alabama commitment Christian Miller is another.
“I want to be better than my dad,” Davis Jr. said. “I just have to work as hard as him.”
In his freshman season, Davis Jr. tallied 64 tackles, four pass break-ups and a fumble recovery. This past week, he had seven tackles and an interception in Dutch Fork’s victory against Dorman.
Though he’s a sophomore, Knotts said the coaching staff treats him like a senior because they expect more from him, on and off the field.
“He’s got a chance to make a million dollars with this, so he should take a different route,” Knotts said. “He knows what awaits him, and it makes your life a little bit easier. Most of these kids don’t know what they want to do or what they’re going to be good at.
“With Stephen, it’s kind of laid out for him, so it’s up to him what he’s going to make of it.”