We begin with a dream.
With a 15-year-old football “phenom” who’d dreamed of wearing the hallowed golden helmet. No, not of Notre Dame, but of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Jaden Davis grew up watching the Fort Lauderdale high school football powerhouse and admiring players like Phillip Dorsett and Joseph McClary. He longed to be one of them, and as an eighth grader at Nova University School, he thought he had a shot. He was already playing varsity for the Suns.
“I get over to St. Thomas,” Davis said, “and you got guys like [future Miami signee] Sam Bruce and [future Miami signee] Michael Irvin and [future Florida State signee] Asante Samuel that’re still on JV.”
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Davis established himself as a sophomore, and he’s preparing for his senior year with virtually every major college program competing for his services. At 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, Davis is rated as a four-star cornerback who’s the 19th-best player in the nation at his position.
The Florida Gators are one of the teams on his list, and he recently attended the school’s Junior Day. He told the Herald he came away impressed.
“The old staff was great. I had a strong relationship with the old staff,” he said. “But I think coach Mullen is a different feel. He’s more of a people person. I feel like I would have a stronger relationship with Mullen personally. He would talk to me more.”
Davis also liked new defensive backs coach Charlton Warren, who offered him when he was at Tennessee. Their relationship carried over to Florida.
Davis said he was most interested in seeing how the coaches interacted with players at Junior Day because his most important factor when evaluating potential schools is whether the staff feels like a family. He got that vibe from the Gators.
“Once you join Florida, it’s a family,” he said. “It kinda relates to St. Thomas in a way to where it’s DBU. It’s a family. It’s where defensive backs go if they wanna become great.”
That’s also the message he’s been getting from former Florida corner and current Indianapolis Colt Quincy Wilson and his brother, current Florida corner Marco Wilson. Both know Davis.
“If you’re a defensive back in Florida,” they’ll tell him, “why would you wanna go anywhere else?”
But what exactly is Florida getting in Davis if he does decide to go there?
The first thing, Davis said, is a competitor. That’s what brought him to St. Thomas. He saw great players there, and he knew going against them would make him one of them. That attitude, however, didn’t prevent struggles.
When Davis arrived at St. Thomas after playing varsity at University School in eighth grade, he was assigned to the Raiders’ JV squad. Then he was demoted to the freshman team, where he became its do-everything player. He played corner, he played quarterback. He returned kicks, he punted.
“That’s when I realized that I really need to get in there and grind,” he said.
So he did, and he made varsity as a sophomore. He sat behind future Miami signee Al Blades Jr. and Samuel on the team’s depth chart when the Raiders opened the season against Booker T. Washington.
“You’ve always gotta stay ready,” the duo would tell Davis. “If anything happens to either of us, then you’re gonna have to go in and play.”
Davis cramped up before kickoff, so Davis was forced to play. He prevented a deep completion on the second play of the game and was solid from then on. He had arrived.
He’s also very family oriented, noting that his parents, brothers and grandmother are his principal motivation for playing football and making the NFL.
“My family is a good situation right now,” he said, “but I wanna put my family in a situation where they don’t have to worry about anything at all.”
Davis has always wanted to be an architect, and he dreams of building his family (and himself) a house.
“That’s what I’ve been telling all the colleges,” he said. For what it’s worth, Niche.com ranks Florida’s architecture program 34th in the nation.
Davis also wants the players on whatever team he plays for to behave like a family and for the coaches to be more human than robot. And he wants to make his decision before his senior season. St. Thomas lost in the state semifinals last season, which is unacceptable. “At St. Thomas,” Davis said, “you either win states or you don’t.”
So with that in mind, whether he chooses Florida or not, fans will know his decision by the time football season begins.
“We can’t go out like we did last year,” he said. “So I think that’s our message, and that’s the way we’re going about it. So I think most of the guys in the 2019 class are gonna be committed this summer.”