West Iredell High School wide receiver Vincent Davidson had one goal in mind heading into his last season: win a first round playoff game. Winning a playoff game is something that has not happened in a while at the North Carolina school, and Davidson is hoping to help lead his team to that special moment.
The Warriors made that goal a possibility this past season by making it to the playoffs. But they found themselves down late in their first round game against Northwest Cabarrus. With the game still in reach, Davidson scored his team's only touchdown to bring it within three. The Warriors later had a chance to tie the game on a field goal attempt, but it came up just short of Davidson and his teammates' dreams.
"It was emotional for me and especially for the seniors because it was their last game," Davidson said. "We are a program that struggles to get past the first round in playoffs, and we came so close to getting over that hump but came up just short."
Coming so close to a great achievement, but falling just short is always painful and can distract a player from what lies ahead. But Davidson has his mind set on next season. And even though the Warriors will lose several key players from last season, Davidson remains optimistic.
"We are going to have to rebuild our offensive line next season because we lost four senior offensive linemen. But our goal is still to make it past the first round of playoffs."
Davidson realizes his team won't be able to achieve its goals without his help both on and off the field.
"I personally want to have a good season next year after being limited because of my ankle injury. I just want to be a leader and help our program get that playoff win."
Davidson said the injury prevented him from playing at the highest level possible. He was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, which is an injury that will cause a consistent, sharp pain.
"It really affected me running my routes the most. It slowed me down a little bit, made it harder to make cuts, made it harder to break down at the top of routes, and things like that. But it's 100% now, and it will be good for next season."
The 6'-2", 200 pounder said the injury slowed down his recruiting. But now that it is healed, things are starting to heat up.
"I'm starting to hear from a lot of other big-time schools like Auburn, North Carolina, Clemson, Purdue, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Kentucky, LSU, Vanderbilt, and Duke. They are all showing medium to high interest. Most of them are talking to me several times a week now."
But even with Davidson gaining plenty of attention, his only scholarship offer so far is from Illinois. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino started recruiting Davidson, and Petrino made it clear from the beginning that Davidson would be one of his top targets.
"After practice one day, my coach pulled me aside and told me that I had a letter from Illinois and that they were recruiting me. On top of the letter was highlighted ‘Top 10', meaning that I was one of the top recruits they were going after. To me, it showed that they were very interested in me, which will likely help them remain as one of my top schools."
Davidson continues to talk to Petrino, and he only has positive thoughts on the Illinois coach. Petrino eventually introduced Davidson to Illinois tight ends coach Chip Long, who recruits his territory.
"Me and coach Petrino are very close. We talk at least twice a week, and the way he talks, he explains things in a way that makes it easy for athletes to understand. He eventually introduced me to Coach Long, who I haven't known for a while, but he's a guy who is laid back—not too laid back—and will listen to what you have to say."
Davidson's high opinions on Illinois's football program go further than just having great coaches.
"Illinois was the first program to offer me a scholarship, so that means they were interested in me early. And they run the same style of offense as my school, so that is something that I look at.
"Also, Illinois is a big program that has a winning tradition, and they have a good chance of being my pick in the end. But I will continue to keep my options open to any school."
There are several things he looks for when checking out schools.
"I look for great academics, what majors they have to offer, the history of the school, the coaching staff, the football program, what kind of offense they run, how they respond after a bad year, what guys they are recruiting, and what kind of atmosphere and school spirit they have on game day."
Davidson is not only a star football player, but he also can produce on the basketball court. As just a freshman, Davidson played varsity and scored over 300 points. But in his sophomore season, West Iredell got a new coach who believed in the older kids playing over the underclassmen.
Davidson said if football never panned out, he would try playing college basketball instead. But football is his main sport. Davidson has a size advantage on the gridiron, something he doesn't usually get on the basketball court.
"In football, I am able to use my height as an advantage. In basketball, I played the small forward/power forward position, and I was undersized for my spot. So, I felt as if football would just be the better sport for me."
There are several other reasons Davidson feels like football is the better choice. He believes he has a lot to offer when it comes to the game of football and being able to do things the right way.
"I really use my size as an advantage on cornerbacks, and I have good instincts. I am a very quick learner, so I will be able to learn a lot from what others do, especially the older guys."
Davidson's schedule is about to get busy very soon. In the near future, he plans on visiting Auburn, Clemson, Kentucky, and he is visiting Illinois for its next Junior Day on April 2.