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Enormous Talent : Davis Has Large Role in Los Alamitos' Plan to Stop Opponents

October 12, 1995|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOS ALAMITOS — Rashawn Davis is big . . . really big.

"We went to talk to the Los Alamitos football coaches after registering this summer, and one of them thought my brother was my son," said Davis, a senior defensive tackle for the Griffins.

"My brother is a sophomore. This coach started talking to my mother and I and asked how many years eligibility our 'son' had. When I said I was a senior, he said, 'Get in the office and meet Coach [John] Barnes.' "

That same day in August, at almost the exact moment, Barnes was telling assistants that the Griffins could use a big lineman to anchor the defensive front. Davis walked in and, once he too realized this was actually a high school senior, Barnes looked skyward and said, "Thank you."

Davis, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound lineman, came west from Spring, Tex.--north of Houston--this summer. He has managed to squeeze his enormous frame into a defense that already had eight returning starters. It has been a nice fit.

The Griffins' offense has terrorized defenses for years. And Davis' presence is doing the same to some offenses.

This is only his second year of varsity football, but it's hard to tell from his performance. Against Pasadena Muir two weeks ago, Davis knocked down two passes at the line of scrimmage while fighting off a blocker.

"He just drove the center back, jumped right up and knocked them down," Barnes said. "It wasn't surprising. I had seen him dunk a basketball with two hands that week. Can you imagine a guy that big being able to jump like that?"

*

Davis is big . . . really big.

"When I was in the eighth grade, my friends and I went to an amusement park," Davis said. "You got in for $10 if you were under 14. I gave the ticket guy my money and he demanded to see my ID. He said I had to be at least 19."

Having a beard at that time didn't help Davis' argument.

Davis was 10 pounds at birth and was so large, according to his mother, that the pediatrician showed him off to other doctors. Eventually, Livonia Davis had to give up trying to convince waitresses that her son qualified for the child's menu.

But Davis has been one to throw his weight around.

Kids would often tease him about being large. A few brave souls would even try to pick a fight. But Davis would have none of it, and would walk away.

"I would even tell him that one of these days he was going to have to show kids he wasn't afraid," Livonia Davis said. "He would say, 'Mom, if I fight, then I might get suspended from school.' He has always been very tolerant and very gentle."

Except in uniform.

Davis' size demanded he play sports. Football, though, was not his first choice. He played it as a youth, but gave it up after his freshman season. He preferred basketball and played two years on the Spring High varsity.

"I didn't like football because they always wanted me to play the offensive line," Davis said. "Offensive linemen didn't get any recognition. I went to basketball and wasn't going to play football anymore."

A school counselor thought differently and switched him back to football before his junior year--without Davis' knowledge. Unwilling to argue, he accepted the change when his class schedule arrived that summer.

By then, Davis had beefed up from 260 to 290 pounds through weight lifting and even he had decided that maybe football was his future.

"Rashawn had come out as a freshman, but he played on the B team and didn't really do much," Spring football Coach Sonny Karas said. "But he's a smart kid. When he put on the weight, he knew which direction his future was in."

Davis played offensive tackle for Spring, which finished 6-4 and barely missed the playoffs. The more Karas saw of Davis, the more excited he was about his potential. The coach never saw it fulfilled.

By February, Livonia Davis had decided to move to California. Her husband had died years earlier and she had no relatives nearby. She moved west to be close to a life-long friend living in Cerritos.

"Rashawn was a little soft as a junior, but that began to change," Karas said. "We were expecting big things from him. He was in the weight room gaining strength and confidence. We would watch him run agility drills and would just be amazed. He was a big kid who was getting better every day."

*

Davis is big . . . really big.

"When I was a sophomore, I helped a friend move to the University of Texas," Davis said. "He was going there on a football scholarship and had to get weighed when he got there. I was standing behind him and when he got off the scales, the coach looked at me and said, 'You're next.' I told him I was only a sophomore in high school. He said, 'Son, what's your name?' "

They haven't forgotten at Texas. The Longhorns are among the programs actively recruiting him. Ohio State joined the fray recently after seeing Davis on film.

According to Barnes, Buckeye coaches had been studying Griffin game film to look at some offensive players. They couldn't help but notice the big kid on the defensive line. He was hard to miss.

"We've noticed that teams don't run at him much anymore," Barnes said. "In fact, Muir didn't run inside a lick."

Davis' future, though, is probably on the offensive line. His footwork, developed through playing basketball, and his size make him a natural. Barnes even uses Davis as a blocking back in the Griffins' goal-line offense.

Wide holes follow in his wake.

"Against Carson, he twice knocked down linebackers," Barnes said. "On the film it looks like Rashawn just fell down with no one else around him. But when he gets up, you see there's a player underneath him. He buried those guys and they must have weighed 230 pounds."

Yes, Davis is big . . . really big, which is beginning to pay off.

Said Livonia Davis: "I used to worry about Rashawn getting hurt playing football. It finally occurred to me that he was always the biggest player on the team. I don't worry anymore."

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