People should give Drew Davis a break. And give their complaints about his local celebrity a rest.
One memorable game exemplifies why. The weather in Roxboro was about as bad as could be for a high school football game. Cold and wet, with a strong northerly wind blowing a swirling mist into the faces of the faithful few who stuck in the stands, it was bad enough that most Rocket fans, among the most loyal in the state, were packing up midway through the second half to go home.
On the field, East Chapel Hill and Person High were still battling. The game had been tied 7-7 at the half, 14-14 in the third quarter.
Davis had hit Luke Arlotto and Alex Moore for touchdown passes, and run for two more himself, to get East in front 28-21, but the issue was still in doubt as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter.
Davis was driving the Wildcats down the muddy field one play at a time. A little pass here. A lot more scrambles there.
The conditions were bad enough to hamper coach Bill Renner's preferred "five-wide" all-out passing attack, but Davis was running even more than conditions might dictate.
The Rockets were fully aware of Davis's quarterbacking skills, and they were stacked seven, eight, sometimes nine in the box.
Davis, who already owned one state record for pass completions (43) in a game, was on the cusp of another.
He needed 27 completions to break the NCHSAA season record of 336 by Charlotte Independence's Chris Leak in 2002, right before he left to lead Florida's Gators. For Davis, 27 would be a below-average night.
But this Friday night, facing a defense determined to ground him, Davis opted to run.
Despite the yells from the sideline to "throw it," Davis kept tucking away the ball and scrambling -- 5, 7 ... 11 yards at a time.
To Davis, winning the game was more important than another state record.
East was trying to trying to kill the final 3:58, and he wanted to keep the clock moving.
Down inside the Roxboro red zone with barely 2 minutes left, Davis darted around right end.
A scrum of Rocket defenders drove him out of bounds and dragged him down, drawing a flag for the late hits.
Davis bounded up from the edge of the hard-surface track, clapped his hands and laughed. Grinning as he sprinted back onto the field, he gave out with what might be described as a joyous "hooooo ...." of a war cry.
One play later, Davis drove into the endzone for a 35-21 East lead.
From the sideline, senior captain Robin Palmer yelled, "He's a monster!"
When all was said and done, Davis had run 27 times for 161 yards and three second-half touchdowns, passing for just 13 completions and 2 TDs.
He got the win, not the record. But he was smiling.
And that's what all the Chapel Hill critics who've begrudged Davis his notoriety should see.
Davis gets "it."
Playing in his last varsity game as a high school senior, a game that didn't mean much except to the athletes who played it, he enjoyed every minute. He lived in the moment. Rain, cold, mud, late hits -- didn't matter. He just played the game.
Despite a team's final record of 3-8, Davis had the finest season at quarterback since future FSU Seminole Clyde Walker led Chapel Hill.
Six of the top 10 state high school marks for pass completions in a game belong to Davis. He has another top-10 performance for his 488 passing yards against Jordan. He's second in pass completions for a season behind Leak, and he helped Alex Moore set the NCHSAA record for (125) receptions in a single season.
Though he helped East Chapel Hill to its best winning percentage ever in conference games, he did it in an annus horribilis for the Davis family, a year in which Drew Davis had been dragged unwillingly into the limelight by the chancellor at the University of North Carolina as he tried to explain away his reasoning for a seemingly inexplicable dismissal of Davis's father.
Some young athletes in Chapel Hill have faced similar public pressures in the past.
Some imploded in terrible fashion. Some survived and moved on.
Just like fire can destroy imperfections or purify precious metals, pressure can ruin or perfect. It can take ugly, oily coal and produce a diamond.
Drew Davis underwent a tough test his senior year, and gave a gem of a performance.
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