Devante Davis is not a household name. The Woodlawn High senior is a safety-linebacker who fills a variety of roles.
If Davis’ story sounds familiar, it’s probably because another highly touted player has the same attributes. Dutchtown’s Landon Collins also is a safety-linebacker and is considered to be Louisiana’s top senior recruit.
Like every other coach in the Baton Rouge metro area, Woodlawn coach Don Jones knows about Collins. As the season progresses, Jones said he thinks Davis can make a name for himself, too.
“Well, I’ve coached some great players in my 40 years,” Jones said. “What separates (Davis) is closing speed and his ability to make vicious hits on the football field.
“God blessed him with a tremendous amount of explosiveness. On top of that, he is the most physical player I’ve ever coached.”
For Davis and the Panthers, the road toward prominence in Class 5A begins this week. Woodlawn meets Broadmoor in the second game of the Coca-Cola Kickoff Classic jamboree Friday at Woodlawn. Games begin at 6:30 p.m.
“We’ve just got to come together, play better and be in better shape physically than we’ve ever been,” Davis said. “I know this is a jamboree, but for us, all the games count.
“It starts this week. We need to come out and play our best. And we have to keep getting better every week.”
If Davis sounds like a man on a mission, that’s because he is. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder is not alone in his quest to make Woodlawn one of the area’s 5A teams to watch.
The Panthers won two straight district titles in Class 4A and are moving back to 5A and into a tough District 5-5A that includes traditional powers like Dutchtown and Catholic High.
Davis takes the 5A challenge personally. He attended practically all of WHS’ offseason workouts and increased his total lifts in the weight room by about 50 pounds.
Strength wasn’t the only thing Davis improved on. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds, bettering his time from 2010 by several tenths a second.
“Devante is not one of these kids who went to a bunch a camps,” Jones said. “But the ones he attended, he did very well at. He also worked very hard in the classroom to put himself in position for colleges to be interested in him.”
One camp visit to the University of North Texas led to a scholarship offer. His other current offer is from Southern Illinois.
“I’m always working to get better because I know I need to improve,” Davis said. “I don’t let up. That’s how we need to approach the season.”
Jones said Davis has had that approach ever since he came to Woodlawn as a sophomore.
Though he grew up in Baton Rouge and attended three local middle schools, Davis spent his freshman year at South Pike High in McComb, Miss., where his grandmother lives.
“From the moment he came here two years ago, we knew he (Davis) had a lot of speed and talent,” Jones said. “What we didn’t know was how he’d be able to put it all together and how he’d do academically. He’s taken care of everything he’s needed to up to this point.”
Davis finished his junior season with 85 tackles, eight pass break-ups, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Meanwhile, his GPA rose to 2.7.
With Woodlawn’s move to a 3-3-5 defense, the role of Davis and other defensive backs, including another talented senior, Daven Woodard, has grown.
But the fact Woodlawn also has a talented offense led by quarterback Kendall Barnes, a three-year starter, is a plus, Davis said.
“We know our offense can move the ball and put up points,” Davis said. “We need to take care of our business.”