Campus visit convinces Gateway’s Derrick Davis to pick LSU

Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 4:59 PM

Derrick Davis visited Louisiana around the age of 8 for a youth track meet. He finished 17th in the country in the 100-meter dash, an early glimpse of the athleticism that has made him a coveted college football recruit.

But even then, he remembers, he really liked the Bayou State.

The Gateway senior traveled to Baton Rouge last weekend for an unofficial visit to LSU, a trip that convinced him to commit to the Tigers. Davis, the top recruit in the WPIAL’s 2020 class, committed Saturday to LSU over finalists Penn State and Ohio State.

“For me to get back down there was just good times, a good feeling,” said Davis, wearing the purple and gold beads he brought home from Louisiana. He celebrated his announcement Saturday with family and friends at the Pitcairn Monroeville Sportsmen’s Club.

Davis (6-foot-1, 194 pounds) is rated the No. 2 safety in the nation by 247sports and the No. 51 prospect in the senior class. Safety has been a position of strength for LSU in recent years.

“I’m pretty much picking up what Grant Delpit did, but really bringing back what Tyrann Mathieu did,” Davis said. “Those are big shoes to fill, but I think I’m the right player to fill them.”

Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football’s top defensive back in 2019. Mathieu was a Chuck Bednarik Award winner as the top defensive player. Both were drafted into the NFL, a future Davis sees for himself at LSU.

But football wasn’t the only factor that attracted him to the school. He wants to become an electrical engineer and was impressed by the classroom building.

“Their students helped construct that building,” Davis said. “That’s unheard of. It shocked me.”

He couldn’t meet with LSU coaches or tour the football facilities since official visits aren’t allowed under NCAA restrictions.

The football team played at Auburn last Saturday, so he wasn’t there for a game day.

But to him, seeing the engineering building might have been more impressive.

“It really was,” Davis said. “I see football stadiums all the time. At most schools, all they can say is we have 100,000 or 110,000 (fans). Most schools don’t talk about what kind of classrooms they’ve got.”

LSU isn’t a football program that typically lands recruits from the WPIAL. Davis in July announced a Top 7 that also included Pitt, Clemson, Georgia and Southern Cal.

Early Saturday morning, Davis called LSU safeties coach Bill Bush to tell him he’d picked the Tigers.

“He was in a coffee shop, and he got loud,” Davis said. “He said people were looking at him because he had headphones in.”

He called LSU coach Ed Orgeron in the evening after making his commitment public.

Davis was the TribLive HSSN Football Player of the Year as a junior, when Gateway won the WPIAL Class 5A title. His senior season ended Friday night with a one-point loss in the WPIAL semifinals.

His father, Derrick Davis Sr., was once a Michigan State recruit when Nick Saban was on the Spartans staff. Derrick Sr. later was an all-conference defensive back for Edinboro in 2000.

Davis’ mother Venneasha accompanied him on last weekend’s trip. He liked the campus, the diversity of the students and the food.

“The food down there is great,” he said. “I didn’t get to watch much of the game, but touring campus was probably better than me watching the game. I could see kids on campus going to class. See how diverse the university is. It was just beautiful.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at


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