Gateway’s Derrick Davis named TribLive HSSN Football Player of the Year

Sunday, December 15, 2019 | 1:23 AM

With nearly 30 college scholarship offers, Gateway’s Derrick Davis admits he’s had to look back through his Twitter timeline just to remember them all.

This fall, Davis showed why he’s in such high demand.

The do-it-all running back and safety had more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 28 touchdowns while leading Gateway (12-3) to the WPIAL Class 5A title for the second time in three seasons.

His outstanding performance earned him the TribLive High School Sports Network’s Football Player of the Year award.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior has college offers from Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia regionally, but also nationally from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and others. He holds offers from the first four teams in the BCS rankings and seven of the Top 10.

Davis led the Gators in rushing with 1,507 yards on 176 carries and ranked second with 36 catches for 547 yards.

He displayed incredible playmaking ability this season with eight touchdowns longer than 50 yards including an 80-yard run and a 75-yard catch. He added 46 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble for a defense that held nine opponents to a touchdown or less.

How are you different from 2017, when you were a freshman starter for a WPIAL champion?

“Maturity. Knowing Courtney Jackson (in 2018) and Brady Walker (in 2017) were leaving, I had to step up and be the leader. Coaches have more trust in me, knowing I’m a vet on the team. I had to step up and that’s what I did this year.”

Was there a favorite touchdown from this season?

“I’ve got two. The (75-yarder) that I caught against Mt. Lebanon in the first game of the season and the (77-yarder) against North Hills, when I caught the screen and took off.

“(Against Mt. Lebanon), they had two-high safeties and I had a matchup with the inside linebacker. I knew with my speed I could beat him. I did what I had to do. I jumped from like the 7-yard line into the end zone.

“(Against North Hills), for some reason in that game I couldn’t get loose. They were ankle tackling and I just could not get loose. I had to unleash the speed and let everybody know I still have it. I ended up outrunning three dudes that had the perfect angle.”

Is there a play call that gets you excited in the huddle?

“It’s a screen in the backfield and I set my blocks up. I can say that as the years went on, I’ve got patient with my blocks. My freshman year, I was always trying to get up field. This year, I’ve got some patience in me. I’ve started to read everything. Everything has started to slow down.”

Do you consider yourself a better offensive player or a defensive player?

“Deep down, I’m still a defensive player because I have a nose for the ball. I love being the quarterback of the defense. But offense, I don’t know, I just have fun with it. It’s like backyard football.”

Where do you see yourself playing in college?

“I see myself at safety in the future. Depending on the college I pick, I know they’re going to try to use me on both sides of the ball. But I see myself on the defensive side playing like a free safety but also coming down for the run support. I’ve shown this year that if a team likes to run the ball, I can come down and shut it down.”

How is your leg? (Note: Davis was injured on a 71-yard run in the WPIAL finals.)

“It was a high-ankle sprain. It’s feeling good. It’s healing faster than I thought it was going to. Right now I’m just going to rehab and trying to get it back.”

How did the injury happen?

“My foot was planted in the ground and his helmet hit my foot. It just didn’t move. On film, you could see how my foot was just stuck in the ground. I’m thankful my team pulled through and got the win.”

Can you describe your emotions sitting out the state semifinal the following week?

“It hurt. It hurt a lot not being able to play the last game with your boys. I actually cried in the locker room. To see them lose, it hurt a lot.”

What are your goals for the 2020 season?

“I’m setting the bar high. I want a state title, I need the state, and hopefully Gatorade Player of the Year.”

Where does your recruiting process stand today?

“I’m going to come down to a Top 8 sometime in January to get some of the weight off my shoulders because it can get a little bit stressful.”

How do you keep track of all the offers?

“I look back to my Twitter to see what I posted. There were times people were asking me how many I had. I said, to be honest with you, I don’t even know.”

How busy is your phone during contact periods?

“It’s busy. On Sept. 1, when that date hit, my iMessages went from three to over 140. I was like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ My phone was buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. Sept. 1 was when I was eligible for coaches to contact me. Man, were they serious about that.”

What are you looking for in a school?

“Right now I’m looking for a school with a strong alumni base and good academics that I can rely on after football. And then just an excellent coaching staff and football team with a good environment for the players.”

Your father played college football, correct?

“He played for the staff when Nick Saban was at Michigan State before going to a juco. He ended up playing at Edinboro. (Note: Derrick Davis Sr. earned first-team all-conference DB honors as a senior at Edinboro in 2000.)

“My dad is from Cleveland, Ohio. He played for Ted Ginn’s dad at Glenville (High School). Little Ted that plays for the Saints was the water boy.”

What’s your favorite memory from this season?

“The hard work we put in this summer, the seniors we had and the fun we had on trips. Those are the memories that you make.”

If your football team held a talent show, who wins?

“I’d probably have to say Sonny Comunale or James McClinton. They’re just funny dudes.”

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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