London Davis Working Overtime To Succeed

London Davis (Holly Smith)

Many athletes want to play as freshmen in college. They don't want to redshirt to save a year of eligibility. But sometimes, it can be the best thing for them. Tight end London Davis openly admits he wasn't ready to play as a freshman last fall, but he is working hard to prepare himself for the upcoming season.

Cahokia High School's London Davis came to Illinois unprepared for college ball. He was listed as a tight end, but he didn't need all the techniques required of him now.

"I played tight end in high school, but we ran a spread offense. So I was like a receiver in high school. I'd never been in a three point stance before."

London has aspirations of playing pro ball someday, so he knew that Illinois would help him develop the skills to play in the NFL.

"I came here to be a traditional tight end. My dream is to play in the NFL. So I have to learn to block. It was between here and Mizzou. I knew if I wanted to go to the NFL, I had to be able to block.

"At Illinois, I knew you used the tight ends a lot in the blocking schemes. I knew sooner or later the passing would come in also. Now I'm real excited because there's a lot of passing to the tight end."

Davis took advantage of his redshirt year.

"Since my first year of high school, I never sat on the bench. But coming here, I wasn't ready. I didn't know much. So when I redshirted, I got to watch some of the older guys like Oh-Oh (Michael Hoomanawanui) and freshman Hubie Graham for their blocking. I got to work on my three point stance and blocking skills."

Strength and conditioning work was new to him also. Winter Conditioning was an eye opener for him.

"I thought it was tough. I never did none of this stuff in high school. I didn't condition, I just basically played. Some of this stuff is real new to me. But I went real hard at it so I could compete with everybody else. If I don't compete, I'm not gonna play. So I've got to compete with the best of them."

Running the Memorial Stadium steps last summer was difficult as he acclimated to the responsibilities of college. But he was highly motivated to improve.

"I'd never done that before either. But I went into the weight room to become more explosive because you have to be real explosive to get to the next level. You've got to be quick, and you've got to be strong."

The hard work has paid off.

"When I came here during the summer, I was about 245 and now I'm at 253. I didn't gain too much, but I toned down a lot. I went from 16% body fat to 11.5% body fat.

"When I got here I wasn't strong at all. Coach Lou Hernandez did everything to get me ready. I'm now a lot stronger, a lot faster, a lot more explosive. So now I think I'm ready to play at this level."

Sweat was dripping from London's face as he spoke. He put in extra time with Offensive Coordinator and tight end coach Mike Schultz after practice, and he was near exhaustion. But he was grateful for the opportunity to improve his game.

"I love Coach Schultz a lot. He stays on my case a lot. He coaches me real, real hard, and I think that's what's gonna help me play on this level. He's helped me a whole lot. If I do something bad, he'll tell me.

"You don't want to hear the good things, you want to know the things you're doing wrong so you can improve them. That's why I do extra things. I had a couple drops today because I don't look the ball in. If I don't see the ball, I can't make the catches.

"The key to catching the ball is to look at the tip of it. That's why I do a lot of drilling with a tennis ball. We have a little ball with a red dot on it, and you look at that like you're looking at the point of the ball. It helps."

He wants to play football for a living, but he also wants to give something back to those who follow. Whenever he gets a chance, he returns to Cahokia to help his friends with preparing for recruiting and playing at the college level.

"That's something that I chose to do because I would like to see those other guys make it. My area is not recruited a lot. At my high school there was no one until my brother, he's at Northern Illinois now.

"When I see guys like Patrick Ivy and Jimmie Hunt and those guys come on, I try to do everything I can. I don't want them coming in like I did and not knowing what to expect. I tell them it's up to them to decide what fits them best. I tell them everything I know receiving wise and quarterback wise, things that can help them play at the next level. Whatever I know, I tell them."

London is always thinking about his future and how he can reach his goals. That includes his academic work.

"At first, I was gonna major in special education, but now I'm gonna get a degree in communications because I can do a lot of stuff with it."

When London Davis was on his official visit to Illinois, he attended the banquet honoring the 2007 Rose Bowl team. After the banquet, he proudly picked up an Illini helmet and had his parents photograph him holding it. There was no doubt he was happy to be an Illini.

"I knew the day I visited this is where I wanted to come because this is where I feel comfortable. Regardless of what happens, I want to be here whether I go to the NFL or not. I get a free education, I get to play with a great group of guys and with some great coaches. I want to be in the NFL and be a coach. The stuff I learn here I can take with me forever."

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