Will Davis is a fighter. From the very beginning, he knew what he wanted, and he knew how to make it happen.
The Utah State senior cornerback has put a lot of effort into getting where he is today. While he didn’t start playing football until his senior year at Central Valley High School (Spokane, Wash.), Davis has fought his way to the top since then. After high school, he started at a Division II school, moved on to junior college and now has had a successful career at the Division I level. In fact, no one would be surprised to see Davis’ career continue after he graduates.
“There’s always been something in me that wanted more, so I took a chance,” Davis said. “I’ve always been confident in myself. I thank God for that.”
Davis’ first year of college was spent at Western Washington University where he redshirted his freshman season. Just when he thought his time had come, the school dropped its football program. Davis remained there for his sophomore year before heading to California and De Anza College.
“My mindset was to go to California, sign at a JuCo and then get a Division I scholarship,” Davis said. “Those are big words to say for a guy who played for one year in high school then started out at Division II and didn’t even play.”
Those big words became a reality when Davis got a call from Utah State. Former offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin focused his sights on Davis and got him to Logan for a recruiting weekend.
“I was taking lots of trips and wasn’t at all planning on coming out to Utah,” Davis said. “Coach (Gary) Andersen is a very convincing person. He has a way with words.”
Davis had been looking seriously at Hawai’i and told Andersen that. In response, Andersen promised a trip to the islands, coming away with a win.
“I loved his confidence,” Davis said.
That confidence cemented Davis’ decision, and he came to Logan. Though quite a different landscape than Spokane and northern California, Davis is grateful for the change of pace.
“There may not be a lot to do here. But that keeps you away from temptation; I think. You can really only focus on school and football,” Davis said. “That’s a good thing in my life. I’ve had a lot of fun, always active, so this was good to kind of tame me and get me focused.”
Davis’ drive and motivation easily carried over to his action in a Utah State jersey.
In his first year as an Aggie, Davis played in all 13 games, making five starts. He made 35 tackles that season, with his career-high being set at 10 in the Idaho game. He finished the year with six pass break-ups and 3.5 tackles for loss.
As he came into his final season, Davis set two goals — become a starter and be named to the all-WAC first-team. The first was achieved by the Aggies’ season opener, as he has started every game since, while the later also became a reality and then more as Davis was not only named first-team all-WAC at his position, but he has also been named to a pair of All-America teams.
“Becoming a starter was huge," Davis said. “I wasn’t really in a position where I thought it could really happen. I got in there and made plays and contributed to the team.”
With so many players on a team, securing one of the top 11 spots on your side of the line isn’t an easy task.
“As an athlete, you want a certain spot at a certain position, but you see someone else working right there with you. Everyone wants that spot, that honor,” Davis said. “You have to keep working in your mind about the others. You always have to keep trying to get ahead.”
Davis is making the most of his starting responsibility and having a significant impact on the gridiron. With at least one game left to play, he already has 47 tackles, 33 of them unassisted. For three consecutive games, he has snagged an interception, two of which could have resulted in a touchdown for the opponent.
“Willie Davis is definitely a great talent,” cornerbacks coach Kendrick Shaver said. "He has out-of-this world, natural, God-given talent.”
With stats like that, Davis is continuing to fight for a spot on the all-WAC team at the end of the year.
“I just really want to make first-team all-conference,” Davis said. “I think that’s something I deserve, something that I have the opportunity to have.”
As is expected from a senior, Davis has had to step up his leadership and presence on the team. Among his personal development as a player, he is constantly striving to succeed for his teammates.
“Leadership is something that’s thrown on you as a senior, especially if you’re in a position where you play a lot. You can’t be selfish. You’re a role model and have to be able to take that on. It feels good to be in the position that I’m in. It takes awhile to adjust,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t say this was something I’m made for, but it’s an honor. It’s an honor that people want to hear what you say and watch your moves and what you do.”
Just because his time at Utah State is drawing to a close, doesn’t mean Davis is done with his fight. He will graduate in December and then see how far football can take him.
“After I graduate, I want to see how things go with the league. I’ll keep training in January,” Davis said. “I’ve been invited to play in the Senior Bowl, then just do well at a combine and try to make it to the NFL.”
Following his athletic career, Davis dreams of working at Nike. He took a field trip to company headquarters in high school and had his heart set on it then. To get there though, he knows the constant fight needs to continue.
“I’ve learned that everyone is fighting for your spot, in and out of football,” Davis said. “In the future, everyone is going to be fighting for your job. I won’t be the only one being interviewed. It’s always a fight.”
Megan Allen writes for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company