BlueAndGold  -  New Notre Dame Captain Avery Davis Found A Voice When He Found A Home

Tommy Rees paused for emphasis.

Asked during a Saturday press availability about wide receiver Avery Davis’ Lewis and Clark-like route to team captaincy, Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator gathered himself and delivered a convincing endorsement.

“I can’t say this enough,” Rees started.


“I love Avery Davis.”

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A couple heads perked up and eyebrows raised in the crowd of reporters around him. Another pause.

“You want to talk about a resilient young man who has never complained once and has done everything this program has asked of him,” Rees continued. “That kid, whatever he needs the rest of his life, he has an ally. He’s an unbelievable young man.”

About 15 feet to Rees’ right at a table in the Irish Athletic Center, Davis had just wrapped up his own media session. He talked for about 15 minutes, oozing energy and passion – a contrast to his polite but brief Zoom press conference last October.

The newly minted team captain has found his voice, in public with reporters and in private settings with teammates. Once he started speaking, he had plenty of listeners. They voted him one of seven captains for this season, his fifth at Notre Dame. The spark that made him more vocal? He had to believe he was worth hearing.

“I had to develop the confidence in myself,” Davis said. “Moving from position to position earlier in my career, it’s like you kind of don’t know who you are in the football realm. It’s just trying to find that identity.”

Davis spent nearly four years searching for it, like a vagabond hopping trains from one spot to the next. He first thought his contributions would come as Notre Dame’s quarterback, a leadership role by default. He arrived on campus from Cedar Hill (Texas) High as the Irish’s quarterback signee in the 2017 class.

He lasted less than a year there. Notre Dame moved him to running back after a redshirt season. In a deep reserve role, he totaled 100 scrimmage yards on 27 touches. It earned him a 2019 fall camp switch to cornerback. Before he could even grow comfortable playing bail technique or bump-and-run, Notre Dame shipped him to slot receiver before the start of the season.

Four positions. Three seasons. Zero identity or reason to think he was an example to follow.

“I felt like my voice didn’t hold weight because I hadn’t proved myself on the field,” Davis said.

Seeking a transfer would have been understandable. Davis, though, decided to stay. He remained at receiver in the 2020 offseason, when COVID-19 threatened his late-bloomer path. But behind the scenes, he stayed the course. When Notre Dame opened the 2020 season, he trotted out on the field as the primary slot receiver. In that game, a win over Duke, he hauled in two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.

It was a flicker, but it was something. And it was a home.

Slot receiver Avery Davis is one of seven Notre Dame team captains for 2021.
Slot receiver Avery Davis is one of seven Notre Dame team captains for 2021. (Chad Weaver/BGI)

Davis ran with it. He claimed a season-long a spot in a small receiver rotation. He had quarterback Ian Book’s trust. His speed and yards-after-catch ability were helpful assets. His 53-yard reception and game-tying 4-yard touchdown catch on the final drive of regulation against Clemson were arguably Notre Dame’s most pivotal plays of 2020.

The whole thing was pivotal in amplifying his voice.

“I felt like my words held weight,” Davis said.

All told, Davis’ 2020 stat line was modest – 24 catches, 322 yards and two touchdowns. He had more than three catches in a game just twice and no more than four in a single outing. He ranked fifth on the team in receptions. He came back for his graduate year with more catches than any other returning Notre Dame wideout (39) and his slot receiver role secure. Now that he has a home, he has dedicated himself to thriving in it.

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“It’s understanding what the defense is trying to do,” Davis said of his focus this year. “Understanding soft spots, whether it’s zone or man coverage, and how to beat it rather than running a route drawn on paper.

“If I have a dig [route], it’s straight up and in, but it’s more of, ‘How can I manipulate this dig to make it seem like something else?’ Or if it’s a zone, how can I find the sweet spot in it? Just the next level of being a receiver rather than being an athlete going out there making plays.”

He has finally stayed put at one spot long enough to dive deep into its intricacies. And long enough to gain universal respect in the locker room.

“I never thought I’d be in this position going through the things I’ve gone through,” Davis said. “To hear my name be called is the ultimate blessing and honor.”


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By Malvi

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