Fontez Davis knows unique. That modifier certainly describes his path fro high school to Butler Community Colege to West Virginia, which included a late position flip and recruitment based as much on potential as performance. Still, the confident six-foot, 194-pounder believes that he can compete at the highest levels of Division I.
At Edwardsville High School in Illinois, Davis was a standout track and football performer. Prior to his junior year, he moved from his long-term position of running back to wide receiver, in order to help his team. Upon graduation in the spring of 2015, he was short of NCAA qualifying standards, so he began a crash course of junior college research, which led him to Butler. That move also included another position switch -- this time to defensive back. Despite a lack of experience at the spot,the Grizzlies saw that potential, and after a redshirt season in 2015 he moved into a regular role in 2016.
Again, though, with just one year of play at cornerback under his belt, offers were few. Memphis and Louisiana Monroe were there, but t was West Virginia's offer that turned his head. Unconventional recruiting methods are nothing new for the Mountaineers, who look in places and at players some other schools pass over, so Davis found it a perfect match.
"They were a unique program," he said of West Virginia, which he saw for the first time this past week. "I already felt as soon as I walked through the doors. I already felt like I was a part of the program. The whole environment and the people around me made me feel that way, and the coaches and players made me feel welcome there. It was a lot of mountains and jsut unique in the way it's set up. Everything is together, and I like that. All of the state is bought in to the football and basketball program."
While WVU had just one season's worth of video to evaluate, it's clear they liked the potential they saw in Davis. His confidence in himself and in his ability had to play a part in that equation.
"With the ability and experience I have from elite competition in juco football I can combine that to develop and perfect my play as a Mountaineer," he said. "I feel that I am indeed a sleeper. I am a quick learner, and [after I made the switch] I worked out with my high school cornerbacks coach and he taught me a few things. I also got help from some other coaches along the way."
Davis is finishing up his associate's degree, and assuming all goes smoothly he will graduate at the end of the spring and then come to Morgantown. He will have three years in which to complete his final three seasons of eligibility.
"I have full confidence to say that I will graduate in May," he said of completing his unconventional route. "[Director of Player Personnel Ryan] Dorchester and I went over what I needed to get done so it's very important I make that happen. The coaches will [provide a plan] for me to eat, sleep, and work Mountaineer football!"
After recently weighing in at 194 pounds, some 20 over his last measured check-in, Davis said he feels very good with his size and conditioning. He'll embark on a regimen to make sure that his quickness and flexibility match his new strength gains.
"That was surprising, but I have been working out a lot since the end of the season. I feel good. My plan for the whole time is to keep stretching and improve my flexibility, and make sure it is where it was when I was running track."
Davis won the Class 3A state long jump title as a senior, displaying the athletic ability that intrigued coaches at Butler and West Virginia.