By STEPHEN MAZZONE
Devonte Davis, a 6-foot-4, 193 pound senior from Galena Park North Shore High, has the physical make-up and raw talent to excel at whatever he does. He has demonstrated that throughout his four years at the Texas school, earning a full scholarship to play football this fall as a wide receiver at Division I program UNLV and establishing himself as one of the leading triple-jumpers in the country.
Track and field and football head coach Garrett Cross also believes his talented, two-sport athlete has another thing that should not be ignored. It’s something that lies between the ears.
“When the lights come on,” he said. “His adrenaline just starts flowing…He's just a tremendous competitor.”
Proof of Davis’s mental fortitude came at its finest at last year’s Region 5-A meet where a top-two finish secured a spot to the state meet. After five jumps, Davis found himself in third, trailing teammate Darius Hyacinth and Devante Babin of Mayde Creek after both leapers earned their placements with distances of 50 feet, 4 ½ inches and 49-11, respectively.
With one jump remaining, Davis was nestled in third with a best of 49-1. After Hyacinth fouled on his last attempt and Babin came up two-feet shy of his best on his final jump, the North Shore standout soared past the 50-foot mark for the first time in his career, moving into second with a distance of 50-2 ¾.
“I guess I was running a little faster and got caught up and went right, right, left instead of my usual left, left, right,” said Davis, referring to the placement of his foot before each jump. “On my last jump I remembered right where I wanted to go. Darius told me, ‘I am not going to go without you.’ I was a little behind the board. I didn’t think I went enough, but all I saw was the tape and it said 50 feet.”
Eleven days after securing his runner-up placement, Davis defeated the Louisiana Tech-bound Hyacinth at the UIL State Track Championships by achieving a season best of 50-4 ½, an effort that didn’t surprise his coach.
“He definitely knows when to respond,” Cross said.
With the state meet a few weeks away, Davis is ranked as the top triple jumper in the country. Three times this season he has surpassed the 50-foot mark, including his current, nation-leading 51-9, set this past week at the District 21-5A Meet.
“It’s going well,” Davis said. “Just a little extra work and I’ll be where I want to be. I want to hit something amazing by the time the regionals and state meet come around.”
Davis’s ability to hit amazing distances in the triple jump began just last year. He competed in just one track meet as a freshman. After playing basketball during his sophomore year, he decided to return to track last year.
With his long legs and his overall speed - he owns a best of 21.8 seconds for the 200-meter dash and 49.4 for the 400 – Cross felt Davis could excel in the triple jump. In his first meet, the Kingwood Invitational, Davis not only won, but leaped an impressive 44-5 ½. He got his quick lesson by watching the eventual second-place finisher.
“I just tried to mimic what he did, and I did it,” he said.
Davis continued to improve on his initial performance and capped off a stellar junior campaign with his win at the state meet. Cross believes his athlete benefitted from having Hyacinth as a teammate as well as from his competitive nature.
“As a freshman, he wasn’t the top guy and I think that pushed him to develop in the weight room and get faster and stronger,” he said. “That really motivated him.”
There was also the fine-tuning on the mechanics that allowed Davis to increase his distance rapidly as a junior.
“At the beginning of the year, he was doing 46-47 feet with a 12-step approach because we wanted to concentrate on his technique,” Cross said. “Once we got that, we upped it to the 16-step approach.”
North Shore has a chance to win its second straight team title at the May 14 state meet. That’s one of the goals for the versatile Davis. He’s also eyeing the state mark in his specialty of 52-4.
“Right now I haven’t really had anyone to push me,” said Davis, who has won by an average of five or six feet so far this season. “I always just try to better myself week after week. What’s going through my mind is I just have to get better every meet.”
Davis will play football for UNLV beginning in the fall, but there is no track team so he’ll compete in open meets as an unattached athlete. He’ll also be looking to make the U.S. Junior Olympic Team and hopes to qualify for next year’s Olympic Trials.
Post-collegiate, the sky’s the limit for Davis, who wouldn’t mind a professional career in football or competing in the Olympic Games for the U.S. in the not-so-distant future.
“I’m glad that God gave me the ability to do both,” he said. “If I fail in one, I know I can do the other. I’ll give it my best shot.”