CDS running back Robert Davis prepares for senior campaign
By Kyle LoJacono
Robert Davis is chasing history.
The Carrollwood Day School (CDS) running back stands within striking distance of the Hillsborough County record for career rushing yards. He is 1,966 yards from the all-time mark, which is owned by Riverview’s Avious Steadman and stands at 5,320.
The 5-foot-7, 174-pound senior knows what is in his reach, but Davis isn’t concerned with individual achievements.
“I’m just focusing on helping my team get better,” Davis said. “If we go to a more passing offense, I’m down for that if it helps us win.”
He racked up 1,832 yards on 138 carries last year, 13.28 per attempt, to help CDS go 6-4. He also scored 30 total touchdowns. Add in the 1,523 rushing yards on 124 carries and 15 scores as a sophomore, and Davis is at the doorstep of the county record.
Davis said no one would believe he’d be in this position while a freshman at Freedom High, including himself.
He started playing football at age 7 while with the Tampa Bay Youth Football League (TBYFL) Packers. Davis played cornerback because he was one of the smallest players.
“In my final two years of little league football, they decided to give me some carries because I was always working hard,” Davis said. “The second year they found out I was a running back and not a defensive player, and they kept giving me the ball. … I always wanted to run the ball. Coming into my last two years of youth football, I really wanted that big man role carrying the ball.”
Davis stayed in TBYFL during his freshman year.
“I weighed only about 150 pounds, if that,” Davis said. “Probably closer to 140 pounds really, so I wanted to play in little league that one more year as I got bigger and stronger before playing in high school.”
Davis had low expectations when trying out for the Patriots entering his sophomore year.
“When I first came here, I didn’t think I’d get much playing time,” Davis said. “We had some good players, and I came here expecting to play mostly defense. Playing running back has been a privilege.”
Sixth-year CDS coach Lane McLaughlin said it didn’t take long to identify Davis’ talent.
“His speed is on another level,” McLaughlin said. “He averages more than 13 yards when he runs the ball. If he gets a first down every time he touches the ball, you’re not looking at too many second and longs.”
McLaughlin said Davis is also a huge weapon as a decoy.
“There was one play last year where we faked it to Robert and pitched to Andy (Embody),” McLaughlin said. “There were 10 guys running after Robert, and Andy was going into the end zone. When you have a guy like that, it opens things up.”
McLaughlin said Davis puts the squad in good situations even when he doesn’t touch the ball.
“On kick returns, no one kicks to him anymore,” McLaughlin said. “They either squib it and we get good field position, or they kick it to Andy (Embody), who’s as good as anybody returning kicks. He forces them to do things to give us good field position because nobody in their right mind would kick to Robert Davis.”
Davis isn’t one to rest on his laurels. He is working like never before this summer to ensure his senior year is his best.
“Right now I’m doing a lot of squats to get my legs huge,” Davis said.
Davis can squat 475 pounds, which has added to his speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds while at the University of Georgia and was also clocked at 4.38 at another camp.
He is also working to improve his catching ability.
“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, is be part of the running and passing game,” said Davis, who caught four balls for 78 yards and a touchdown last year. “I feel as if I can line up out wide or go in the slot, then that opens up things for us.”
Davis is mostly thought of as an offensive force, but he also makes big contributions to the Patriots as a free safety. Last season, he picked off two passes and totaled 72 tackles.
Davis has become synonymous with CDS football, but he moved from Freedom to take part in the private school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
“The classes are harder than (Advanced Placement) classes, and I think it’s getting me prepared for college,” Davis said.
And speaking of college, Davis has eight official football scholarship offers.
Davis had offers to play on scholarship at Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green, Ball State, Middle Tennessee, Holy Cross and Presbyterian, but committed to Cincinnati, a Division I program in the Big East Conference, on July 30.
He isn’t focusing on the rushing record, but Davis said the possibility helps bring attention to the Patriots, which is worth the microscope he finds himself under.
“I wanted to be one of those people who create a foundation at a place that can become a powerhouse in the coming years,” Davis said. “If I’m able to put a stamp on this place to help kids want to come to Carrollwood Day for the football and the educational aspect, then I feel I’ve done a lot.”
—Stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches