|It was nearly a week into
camp in August before Methodist defender LeTovis Davis received the
final medical clearance he needed to suit up.
Photo courtesy of Hugh Harling
One bullet still rests underneath his shoulder pads, lodged in LeTovis Davis’ chest. The Methodist University sophomore was nearly shot to death in the offseason. He did not miss a game.
You won’t find any Methodist players complaining about aches or pains this season. When they see their teammate working his tail off every day, they have no choice but to be inspired. Davis’ presence makes everyone around him appreciate every moment just a little bit more.
“If you’ve got an opportunity in life, you might as well be the best,” said Davis. “You never know when or if you could get a second chance.”
Luckily, Davis is living his second chance. A late arrival his freshman year, Davis worked his way into the starting lineup by the final week of the season. He tallied 26 tackles on the year, including a team-high 16 tackles in the season-ending upset victory over Christopher Newport. That performance earned Davis USA South Conference Rookie of the Week honors. Although just a freshman, Davis’ natural leadership shone through. He was on the right path and the coaching staff was excited to have him around for three more years.
“A guy like this with his leadership ability sets a foundation for all of the guys who come after him,” said Monarchs head coach C.J. Goss.
The surface of Davis’ leadership abilities had only barely been scratched. Unfortunately, financial difficulties threatened to curtail Davis’ time at Methodist. After his first semester, Davis returned home to Nashville, N.C. He applied for financial aid, to no avail. He applied for jobs near home and started mowing lawns to make money to put toward his tuition. With his second semester in doubt, a promising opportunity was presented to Davis. There was an opening for a resident adviser on campus. Room and board would be covered. Davis could continue at Methodist and work out with his teammates in the offseason.
“I always like to help people. I like to push everybody in the right direction,” said Davis. “[Being an RA] is a good opportunity for me to express my leadership skills.”
On Jan. 13, Davis and his cousin returned to Nashville so Davis could pick up some dress clothes from home. He had an interview for the RA position the following day. It was a Monday night. Davis and his cousin stopped at a gas station in nearby Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Two men approached them, demanding money. Davis let his pride get in the way of his judgment.
“I felt that I worked too hard for what I had,” said Davis.
He stood up to the robbers. Words were exchanged. The fight escalated. A third man started firing shots from a distance. Davis took off running. He ran until his foot went limp. That’s how he knew he was shot. He kept running until he found a car parked between two houses. He hid under the car and took a deep breath. The exhale let him know that he was not hit in the heart or the lungs. He called 911, and waited.
|Two bullets hit LeTovis Davis
in the chest, while two also went into his leg. He was released
from the hospital after only 12 hours.
Photo courtesy of LeTovis Davis
“It’s like you’re in ‘The Matrix,’” said Davis of being shot at. “Everything slows down.”
Four bullets. It was not until he arrived at the hospital that Davis realized he was shot four times. He was shot twice in the chest and twice in the lower leg. One bullet still remains in his chest.
“The main thing on my mind was that I shouldn’t be in this predicament right now,” said Davis. “I felt like I let my team down.”
The phone call Davis’ mother made from the hospital was to the Monarchs coaching staff. Goss was still an assistant coach at the time, a few months before his promotion to head coach.
“We were dumbfounded,” said Goss. “We didn’t realize how severe it could have been. We were worried about his well-being and his recovery. The key to the whole thing is that we never gave up on LeTovis. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Davis never gave up on himself or his team, either. He was admitted to the hospital at 11 p.m. and was released less than 12 hours later. He irritated his mother by discarding his crutches and trying to walk just days after being shot. His mind was already made up that he would return to Methodist and help the Monarchs win in 2013.
“I said, ‘Coach, just give me time. I’ll be there,’” said Davis.
It took awhile. It was nearly a week into camp in August before Davis received the final medical clearance he needed to suit up. He wears a brace on his ankle to help combat minor nerve damage lingering in his lower leg. Being back on the football field is the pinnacle of Davis’ recovery.
“Football is my everything. Without football, I don’t know where I would be,” said Davis.
It would be an inspiring story if Davis came back and joined his teammates in meetings and on the sideline. From narrowly avoiding death to returning as a student-athlete would be considered a successful comeback by many, but Davis always had his sights set higher.
“I feel a little faster and stronger than I did before,” said Davis. “I’m the type of person that when I want something, I’m going to work to get it.”
Davis has 10 tackles through two games, both Monarchs victories. In a 41-34 win over Guilford on Sept. 14, Davis lined up on offense and caught one pass for seven yards.
“He showed up at the end of summer in great shape and hit the ground running,” said Goss. “He is still out there making plays for us.”
Other than the constant reminder lodged just above his heart and the occasional numbness in his foot, Davis is back to normal. He is a resident adviser at Methodist, offering encouragement and life lessons to younger students. He is a survivor and a role model. He is also a key contributor for a Monarchs team seeking its first winning season since 2005.
“He is a leader on campus,” said Goss. “He’s an example of a lot of guys who have sacrificed a lot to be here. That’s the spirit of Division III.”
Christopher Newport’s season-opening win over Salisbury looks a lot better today. The Captains followed that upset by knocking off Hampden-Sydney, 17-7. CNU forced eight turnovers to key the victory. Meanwhile, Salisbury took No. 5 Wesley to the wire. The Wolverines needed a 43-yard Hail Mary from Joe Callahan to Jeremiah Howe with 52 seconds remaining to escape with a 30-27 home win. These two results led to the Captains’ first appearance in the Top 25 poll, coming in at No. 25. Wesley remains No. 5, and Johns Hopkins moved up one spot to No. 16.
The most hyped game of the regular season is upon us. Wesley travels to Belton, Texas, to face nemesis No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Crusaders are opening their much ballyhooed new football stadium. There will be a playoff atmosphere for this September showdown. If these teams play up to their expectations this year, this game may serve as a preview for a December rematch.
As much as I enjoy covering this region, I am unfortunately unable to see most of these teams in person. I am looking forward to catching a rare appearance from an ODAC team near my neck of the woods this Saturday. I will be at Centre College in Danville, Ky. watching Washington and Lee take on the Colonels. After the game, I will record a D3 Report. Since many of you will be attending games featuring mid-Atlantic teams, I am counting on you to file your own D3 Reports throughout the season. You need not be a professional broadcaster to give a quality recap of the game you attended. See Pat’s instructions and example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-voRwtnCUf0 I can’t wait to see your D3 Report soon!
Do you know about any upcoming milestones, big games or new names in the Mid-Atlantic? Please share them with me. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me on Twitter at @adamturer or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.