PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Gateway head football coach Don Holl quickly realized back in August during the team’s mini-camp that Derrick Davis was not your typical freshman.
“We don’t have separate ninth grade teams, so our freshman come in the weight room and then they come on the field with us during mini-camp,” Holl said. “Derrick didn’t look like a freshman…Derrick looked every bit of the part of the older players and could compete on equal footing against really talented varsity players.”
“So that kind of said this guy is a little bit different.”
Originally slated to play corner, Davis’ role with the Gators kept growing during the season, from wide receiver to linebacker and eventually running back.
“That might be the best part that he just does whatever we asked of him,” Doll said of the freshman. “Throughout, he just never said anything or his attitude was always whatever I can do to help the team.”
With Davis leading the way, Gateway captured its sixth WPIAL championship in school history Saturday at Heinz Field, defeating Penn Trafford, 21-16, in the Class 5A title bout. The victory avenged the Gators’ only regular season loss, a 28-0 setback to the same Warriors.
Davis had more than 100 yards from scrimmage—59 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving—and snagged a pair of interceptions, including the game-sealing pick with 19 seconds left and Penn Trafford driving.
“His body is developed to the point where he’s a young man capable of doing an awful lot at an early age,” Holl said of Davis. “He’s got a great work ethic of all other things to go with it, so he’s got a lot going for him.”
Davis’ performance along the way has not gone unnoticed, either. He recently revealed on social media he picked up his first collegiate scholarship offer from Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. It came as no surprise to Davis’ current coach.
“While it’s rare to get offered as a freshman, even in this day in age where we get early offers, he’s a rare talent,” Holl said. “I’m not completely surprised.”
With three years of high school left, it’s hard to project what position Davis will permanently settle into at the next level. So naturally Pitt is recruiting him an as athlete, and his growth will ultimately determine where he fits. Holl reckons he could play corner or safety but also said he might grow into the prototypical linebacker size.
“What’s neat about his body type and skillset is that he can play a lot of places on the field,” Holl said.
A track star as a young teen, Davis possesses the elite speed Division I programs seek. It’s because of that athleticism Holl believes he could make an impact on the offensive side of the ball, too.
“He’s got high top-end speed and small-space acceleration,” Holl said. “Good change of direction guy, good hips, great feet, you know, he could be a lot of things on offense, too, as well.”
Davis’ “off the chart” athletic ability, as Holl put its, will continue to attract attention from major programs. Pitt will have its hands full keeping the youngster in Western Pennsylvania. Until then, Davis and his teammates are focused on the present and winning a PIAA state championship.
Gateway play Hollidaysburg in the PIAA 5A quarterfinals Saturday at 1 p.m.