Irmo, S.C.--It took nearly six months to make it official, but for talented class of 2016 athlete Stephen Davis Jr. it was worth the wait as he is headed to play college football for the Auburn Tigers, a program near and dear to his heart after his father starred there two decades ago.
Battling through an injury that caused him to lose sight of the ultimate goal for a moment and put his academics behind schedule, the 6-3, 215-pounder righted the ship and is now scheduled to be in Auburn on July 31st to begin his college experience with the Tigers.
Making a visit to the Plains last week to meet with the coaches and finalize his plans to enroll this fall, Davis Jr. said it was great to be back and it only made him more excited about his future.
“It was wonderful--not that I just got to see everybody, but I also got to watch the workouts,” Davis Jr. told Inside the Auburn Tigers. “I got to see how they do things in the weight room and how they transfer it to the field by running and conditioning. It’s wonderful. I just honestly can’t wait to be there. I need the 31st to hurry up and get here.”
One of the people who Davis Jr. and his family spent the most time with on the most recent trip was Rodney Garner. Auburn’s defensive line coach, Garner recruited Stephen Davis Sr. out of Spartanburg High when he was rated as the nation's top running back prospect. Garner has been close to the Davis family since that time. Now getting the chance to get to Auburn and be with Garner himself, Davis Jr. said it’s a dream come true.
“He’s been real supportive,” Davis Jr. said. “He’s like my second father honestly from him recruiting my father and then recruiting me. It’s not just that he wants me to come to Auburn, but it’s that he wants me to go to school and succeed as a man and a student-athlete, just see me succeed period.
“That’s wonderful and that’s what I love about Coach Garner and the whole Auburn staff,” he added. “It’s not that they just want the student-athlete to come to Auburn, they also want to see the student-athlete succeed in anything they believe they can do.”
A talented athlete who has played safety, linebacker and running back in high school, Davis Jr. said he’s not sure yet which side of the ball he will end up on with the Tigers. No matter if it’s offense or defense, however, he said just being part of the Auburn program makes it worth the wait.
“I’m very excited,” Davis Jr. said. “Not many kids get to experience the college level and play football. For it to become reality is wonderful. I’m still surprised I’m actually about to leave South Carolina to go to Auburn and start my new life. I’m just ready to get it going.”
A defensive player for much of his career, Davis Jr. moved to running back as a senior and showed some flashes of the talent that made his father a star at Auburn who played for 11 years in the NFL. But, a knee injury derailed Stephen Jr.'s senior season and stressed the prospect out to the point it impacted his classwork.
“It was a little bit of both,” Davis Jr. said explaining his late decision on college. “At the time during the season I wasn’t really focused on what school I wanted to go to. I was just worried about my teammates making the playoffs and worrying about what I had to get done during the season in high school.
“When that injury hit me it was a shock to me because it made me realize football isn’t always going to be here,” he added. “Now it was really time to make a choice of what school I wanted to go to. When that happened my injury pushed me back a little and I held my head down, but my parents picked my head up and told me I could make it through.
“They asked me if I really wanted it or did I want to sit right there and take self-pity. I was like ‘No, I have to get through this.’ That just pushed me more and made me come to a decision.”
Continuing to get back to full strength on his knee, Davis. Jr. said he works out three days a week with a trainer while continuing to do rehab two more days. Focused on making an impact this season, he said putting on the orange and blue is something he’s proud of and he can’t wait to make his own mark on the Plains.
“It’s very surreal,” Davis Jr. said. “I just can’t believe it. My dad went there and now I’m about to go in his footsteps, not in his footsteps but maybe above his footsteps. I’m trying to achieve even higher.”