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The influence of former UL assistant coach D.J. Looney, who died of a heart attack on Aug. 1, is still being felt with wide receiver Martavious Davis of Attalla, Ala., issuing a verbal commitment to the Ragin' Cajuns largely because of the roots set by Looney's personable approach to recruiting.

He had just spoken to him on the phone the day before.

So when Etowah High wide receiver Martavious Davis saw the awful news that UL assistant football coach D.J. Looney had died of a heart attack at a workout on Aug. 1, he was stunned.

“As soon as I saw it, I called my mom,” Davis said. “It was so sad and crazy how that happened.”

Apparently, Looney had made quite an impression on Davis.

Despite having 20 other offers — many a lot closer to home in Attalla, Alabama — Davis still decided to verbally commit to the Ragin’ Cajuns almost a month later.

“As soon as they offered me, coach Looney stayed on me,” Davis said. “We were Facetime-ing every day. He was texting my mom every day, saying how much he wanted me and how much he could change the game because of my speed.

“He never talked to me like he was bidding on something. When we talked, it was like we knew each other for our whole lives. We stayed talking to each other daily. He was really funny. He was a coach you really wish to play for.”

Davis said he’s got a memento of Looney in his locker to honor him.

Still, there was a time the 5-foot-10, 160-pound track standout thought he was headed to nearby Middle Tennessee.

He also had offers to Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Troy, UAB and Coastal Carolina.

“Just a feeling like it’s a family,” Davis said of why he settled on UL. “The coaches are going to take care of me and having the potential to touch the field and be able to compete.”

His speed isn’t in question — 10.5 seconds in the 100 meters and 20.4 in the 200.

Position-wise, Davis didn’t actually begin playing wide receiver until his junior season last fall.

“We had some seniors that had graduated, so I had to step up and play offense,” Davis said.

As it turned out, the move wasn’t just good for the team, but even better for his college recruiting.

“He’s a kid with world-class speed,” Etowah High coach Ryan Locke said. “He plays offense and defense for us. He’s also a return specialist. He’s probably the fastest kid I’ve ever coached.”

Locke said Davis returns kicks and punts as a specialist. He also plays both the slot and outside offensively. He’s a cornerback on defense.

“He’s down great downfield speed,” Locke said. “We just try to get the ball in his hands — whether it’s a jet sweep, hitch, slant or snag route.”

Etowah’s offense this year has maybe young players, including at quarterback, so his statistics this season may not match his talent level.

For the record, Etowah High has produced some college stars as Cadillac Williams, Freddie Kitchens and Patrick Nix.

Also, Davis said he’s still got lots of areas to improve individually.

“Really just knowing where I’m at on the field, if I’m close to the sideline or if I have enough room to work with - just being smart,” he said. “Getting out of bounds and not taking any extra hits.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.