LSU signee Drake Davis' unique bond to LSU
BATON ROUGE – College football recruiting, not unlike the glut of websites that rank them minute-by-minute for hit after hit after hit, is an extremely arbitrary enterprise. A coach can spend hours calling, texting, dining and wooing prospects from every possible angle, and they may pick another school because that’s where their girlfriend is going – or not going.
And sometimes it does not matter what a coach does or doesn’t do or how bad or average a coach is or how bad his team may be at the time. Sometimes the kid just wants to stay home, and your school is near his home. This is how Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo managed at times to sign excellent players. LSU coach Les Miles is a great recruiter to a great school, but his best classes at LSU in 2016, 2014 and 2009 happened to fall in years when Louisiana had an elite crop – even more elite than usual for Louisiana. That’s no coincidence.
Some of the kids Miles signed on National Signing Day Wednesday he could have gotten with the bare minimum of effort. One was Drake Davis, the No. 19 wide receiver in the nation out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, via Dunham in Baton Rouge. Davis (6-foot-4, 212) is the No. 93 overall prospect by Rivals.com and the No. 16 player in Florida.
Davis explained his decision to choose LSU over Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss and many others on Wednesday on The Players Tribune website launched by former New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter on Oct. 1, 2014, to give athletes the opportunity to express themselves free of the media. It is directed editorially by Gary Hoenig, a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine, the best example of sports magazine journalism since Inside Sports. We don’t know how many of the words are that of the athletes or the editors, but in the end it doesn’t matter because it’s great stuff. Davis described the LSU experience about as well as Wright Thompson.
“People have to understand: I rooted for LSU when I was little,” Davis wrote. “That 2007 National Championship? It’s basically my first real memory as a sports fan. I was only in grade school, and man … I was obsessed with that team. Matt Flynn, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon LaFell, Early Doucet – those were my guys. That team was everything to me. And when they won the championship … Wow, I can’t even explain it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy in my life. To me, it was bigger than the Super Bowl.”
And that Super Bowl came just two seasons later. And there was a Final Four appearance by LSU in 2006.
“My roots in Baton Rouge run much deeper than just football, though,” Davis continued. “It feels like I have a memory in every nook and cranny of the city. I swear, any time I’m talking to someone who’s visiting Baton Rouge – every place they mention, I have a story. That one area they passed through, you know, down by the water? Yeah, that’s my old fishing spot. That hole-in-the-wall restaurant they heard good things about? I’ve eaten their whole menu, twice over. The movie theater over at Perkins Rowe where they caught the new Star Wars? I went on my first date at Perkins Rowe. I’ve never forgotten where home was.”
And this is what got me:
“And I’ve never forgotten how it gets, at home, when LSU is winning,” Davis wrote. “When Death Valley is rocking a winner – I mean, a real winner, when it’s got that National Championship Contender swag – it’s unlike anyplace else on Earth.”
That actually happened last season until a trip west, but people can’t seem to remember that.
“As a fan, those wins feel like a birthright,” he wrote. “I was born into those wins.”
Actually, the man responsible for Davis’ birth was Lester Earl, the most hated man in Baton Rouge from 1998 until not that long ago. Earl was hated as much as Nick Saban by the LSU Nation.
Earl was a stud big man out of Glen Oaks High in Baton Rouge in 1996 who signed with LSU basketball coach Dale Brown and assistant Johnny Jones. It was a signing along the lines of Randy Livingston and Shaquille O’Neal. But things did not work out. Earl was suspended, reinstated, quit and ended up at Kansas. His later testimony to the NCAA – whether pressured or not – that he received several thousand dollars from a booster put the LSU basketball program on probation through the early 2000s.
When Earl played for Kansas in the NCAA Tournament in New Orleans in 1999, he was booed as if he was Steve Spurrier in the 1990s or Saban on Wednesday when he brought in yet another No. 1 class to go with his national championship teams past, present and probably future.
Earl apologized to Brown, Jones and just about everyone else in the LSU Nation in 2007 by hand delivering a letter to the Baton Rouge Advocate in the same year his son’s LSU dreams were first born. If ever there was a kid who could be bitter by association toward LSU it could be Drake Davis. If ever there was a father who would have understandably steered his son away from LSU, it could’ve been Lester Earl.
But Drake loves LSU. Good for him and good for his dad.
“And as a hometown boy, in Baton Rouge, I grew up on those wins,” Davis wrote. “And I want to be a part of the next LSU team that captures the biggest of those wins. Thankfully, I know we have the recipe to do it. We have the talent. We have the coaching. And you better believe we have the best home-field advantage in sports.”
Love can indeed be blind. Nowhere in Davis’ six-page letter does he mention the quarterback problems LSU has had on and off – mostly on – since the end of the 2007 season. Like I said, this signing took minimal effort from Miles.
Davis can play a little basketball, too, naturally. And he has a friend in a high place.
“I’ll never forget, at one of the home games I went to this season, walking by the student section and getting a tap on the shoulder,” he wrote. “It caught me off guard, because I didn’t think anyone would be able to reach that far from the student section to where I was standing. But then I turned around … and saw someone with, let’s just say, a pretty long reach. It was Ben Simmons.”
Simmons will be at LSU only slightly longer than Earl was, but so far it is going much more smoothly.
“Standing there, at the front of the student section, roaring and cheering with the rest of the Tiger faithful: Ben Simmons,” Davis wrote. “And he nodded at me, and I nodded at him. And then he pointed up at the crowd – like they were some wild orchestra he was conducting with his seven-foot wingspan – and shouted, ‘Drake! You know you want to be here. You know!’”
Make that yet another assist for Simmons.
Welcome to LSU, Drake. And welcome back, Lester. This time, both of you stay awhile.