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Logan • Will Davis was at Western Washington University just three short years ago, a kid without a football program, passing his time on the intramural circuit.
On Saturday, Davis will lead Utah State's defense against Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. When he steps onto the field in Boise, he will do so as the best defensive back in the Western Athletic Conference. He will do so as an NFL prospect and one of the best emerging cornerbacks in the nation.
In three short years, Davis has gone from Division II afterthought to a star in Logan for the No. 18 Aggies. He has done the majority of this in his only season as a starter. He has done it with precious little football experience and with the dream of accomplishing the goal of playing at the next level that his father set for himself 30 years ago, but could never achieve.
"He's one of the best stories I've seen," USU coach Gary Andersen said. "He's a kid that we thought had natural talent and instincts beyond his experience. He played one year and played a role for us. But he's one of the hardest-working kids that I've been around. And he is a kid who has taken to being coached hard. He has listened and gotten better."
Davis's numbers this season are staggering, considering he was little more than a spot player as a junior. He has 56 tackles and 16 pass breakups. He has battled opponents like BYU's Cody Hoffman and Utah's DeVonte Christopher and more than held his own. He has intercepted a pass in five consecutive games, taking away one side of the field from opposing offenses for much of the season.
And he has drawn plenty of notice. Davis received first-team All-WAC honors, yet was admittedly angry when he wasn't voted defensive player of the year. CBSSports.com named him a third-team All-American. He will be the third Aggie in as many years following Curtis Marsh and Bobby Wagner to participate in the Senior Bowl, considered the premier postseason All-Star event. Considered one of the fastest rising prospects in the country, he is expected by more than one NFL draft projection to be picked in the first three rounds.
"Coach Andersen challenged me to be great at the end of last year," Davis said. "I was just happy to be here last year. I felt like I had arrived when I really hadn't accomplished anything. I just told myself that I wasn't going to let my college career go by without doing everything I could to be great."
Davis' road began in Spokane, Wash. Not on the gridiron, but the basketball court. His love for Allen Iverson is expressed through all the posters on his wall. Davis once tried to get Iverson's trademark cornrow hairstyle.
But it didn't take. His father, Shon a stern preacher who made it out of the rough streets of Compton, Calif. would have none of it. His own playing career cut short because he was shot, Shon Davis raised his family to honor a commitment. Education came first, as did respect and morality. Will Davis played just one season of high school football and did so to stay out of the shadows of his older brother, also named Shon, who had become a star at the high school level.
"Will always had a competitive nature," his father said. "There was a competitive sibling rivalry between the two. It did kind of hurt him. Look how far he has come. I can only imagine how far along he would be if he had applied himself early."
He showed enough in his one season at Central Valley High to garner a scholarship to Western Washington in Bellingham, Wash. But a year later, the school disbanded its football program. Uncertain of what was next, Davis went the junior college route, played well for one year, and caught the eye of Andersen, who quickly offered him a scholarship.
The rest of the story, Davis wrote as he went along.
"That's what I admire about Will," the elder Shon Davis said. "He took a chance. He left and went another route and took a big risk. Everything he's doing right now, he's doing on his hard work. He's been focused this season, and he's pushing himself to his potential."
Will Davis file
• First-team All-WAC
• His first season as a starter
• Was the student body president in high school
• Ran track in high school
• Has interceptions in five consecutive games
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
P Utah State vs.Toledo
• Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Boise, Idaho
TV • ESPN