Dillard football coach Lorenzo Davis returned to his alma mater with one goal.
It was not to win games, coach the best talent or make it to the playoffs. His goal was much bigger than that.
“My main goal was to build character,” said Davis, a former star receiver at Dillard and Youngstown State. “Character will last longer than football.”
The first-year Panthers coach, who spent a season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said once his players have built good character they would win games.
And it is working.
The Panthers have not had a winning season since making the playoffs in 2008. After a slow start this season, the team posted three consecutive double-digit wins and is 2-0 in district play.
Davis credits the turnaround season to new attitudes, not new plays.
“Good character helps you work as a team,” Davis said. “Working as a team helps you win games. The difference this season is that our players have learned to believe in themselves, believe in each other and believe in the program.”
Davis tributes team leaders Josh Williams (6-1, scholarship offers from Marshall) and Dre’Sean Nelson (5-7, 165, offers from Southern Alabama, Bethune-Cookman) for getting the team to buy into that positive attitude.
“Coach Davis’ motto is ‘believe,’ he preaches it to us every day,” said Nelson, 165-pound senior tailback. “We all came together and realized all we need to do is work hard and believe.”
It’s not just his philosophy to win in football. It’s his philosophy to win in life.
“Learning how to believe in their teammates now will help them in the teams they will be part of in life,” Davis said. “Our coaching staff is not here to sell them dreams. We are here to be real with them about life.”
Davis says life is a team. Whether it’s being part of a family, a community or work force.
His coaching staff has brought in people to teach the team about life skills, finance and CPR to be sure their players understand the importance of being part of the bigger team.
“It is important that we teach them how to work with community not just each other,” said Davis, whose team has volunteered at community events including football camps and health fairs.
And his team is thankful.
“We are thankful for his teaching method,” Nelson said.
“Because it’s bigger than football. He has made us think about the big picture. Thanks to him we are learning to be successful both on and off the field”