Jerry Davis will be on the sidelines for one final home game Saturday, but his chances of seeing the playing field are miniscule at best. He’ll be one of the guys wearing a red baseball cap, signaling in the plays for the offense, playing an important but peripheral role in whatever transpires.
Davis’ story holds disappointments and discouragements but also speaks to resolve and resilience, maturity and acceptance, and a willingness to move forward. By all accounts he’s been the consummate teammate since his fall from starting quarterback to No. 4, at best, on the depth chart. He came to the University at Buffalo from Fresno, Calif., to play football but also to obtain a degree and position himself for life after college.
And when the football didn’t come off the way he envisioned, he remained loyal to the program and maintained his focus in the classroom. In May, he’ll graduate with a degree in Sociology.
As a redshirt sophomore, Davis was named the first starting quarterback of the Jeff Quinn era, and it didn’t go well. Instead of producing crisp, breathtaking marches downfield, the offense boiled with chaos. The line couldn’t handle the high-octane demands. The running game was non-existent. Davis struggled along with everybody else.
He started the first six games before being replaced by Alex Zordich, then started the final two games after Zordich was injured. His final stats – a 47.7 completion percentage and 16 interceptions against 16 touchdown throws – oozed ineffectiveness.
“It was very, very hard, but I’m the type of guy that I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me,” Davis said this week. “It’s never about me or one person when you’re in that position. I was a young guy at the time, kind of was thrown into the position, but I was ready to play and learning and getting better every day.”
The next season Chazz Anderson transferred in from Cincinnati as a fifth-year senior and became the starter. This year the role was reduced to a battle between Zordich and Joe Licata. Davis’ time had come and gone.
“From that time on I just knew it was never about me,” Davis said. “I get that. It’s about the team and it’s about just always having a positive attitude no matter what and being a good teammate and a good guy to show my teammates and coaches that it’s about team, it’s about Buffalo, and it’s never about me.”
Quinn called Davis into his office last week to talk.
The two had hit it off right from the get-go when Quinn took over in 2010, as incumbent quarterback Zach Maynard transferred to Cal and the quarterback position became wide open.
“I remember when he first came in here and we met, we definitely clicked,” Davis said. “I loved him. I still love him. A really, really good dude, you know. Very good dude. But, yeah, we talked and laughed about memories we had, 2010 year. He told me that he really respects the way I handled the situation.”
“I called him in the office the other day because I wanted him to hear it from me personally that I appreciate what he’s done for this football team and this program,” Quinn said. “... Look, he doesn’t like it, and I didn’t anticipate him to like it. I wouldn’t either. But there’s 105 guys in that room, and it does take a lot of maturity and respect.
“And there’s another piece to this obligation and that’s academics,” Quinn said. “He picked UB because of the right reasons, and now he’s got a chance to contribute in other ways that maybe people don’t recognize, but I do, and that’s why I had him in my office.”
One can imagine how difficult it has been, but Davis never became a divisive force, never groused, although there’s a case to be made that his career was derailed as much by circumstance as his own play in that one topsy-turvy season.
“Jerry Davis is a great teammate,” said senior linebacker Willie Moseley. “He’s always on the sideline with positive energy, he’s always in the huddle with positive energy. We came in together of course. He’s not playing as much as he would like to, but he’s helping in other ways, so he’s still a great asset to the team, and we love him regardless.”
“I respect Jerry Davis for the role he has embraced in tremendous fashion,” said another senior, Steven Means. “He’s done everything he’s been asked to do. What more can you ask for in a teammate? We love him.”
The final home game for this year’s seniors comes at 3:30 Saturday, when Western Michigan visits UB Stadium. The season ends with two more games on the road, and then, like other college seniors, it’s time to get on with life.
“To receive that degree, that means the most to me and my family as well,” Davis said. “That’s the number one thing on my mind right now is to complete what I came out here and started to do and set myself up for a good future.
“I can’t wait. It’s been a long ride, a long journey for me, and I have a lot of memories here. It’s time to be a man, finish strong and get my degree and prepare myself for corporate America, the next level, whatever opportunities I have and get ready to start a new chapter in my life. I don’t regret anything.”