He does it for the love of the game
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
A few years ago Father Time took away Marvell Davis' football uniform as a player. He may have a much tougher time removing him from the sidelines.
Davis loves the game so much he donates his time as a volunteer coach with the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles.
"I do it strictly for the love of the game. I don't know what I would do without a football game on Friday nights during the season," Davis said.
This will be Davis' fourth year with the Blue Eagles and the second season under head coach Shane Smothers.
"When I was hired by the school, I was told I had four assistant coaches. I told the school that wasn't enough. Then I was told there was also a volunteer coach, Marvell Davis. I wanted to meet him. Within five minutes, I knew immediately I wanted him on my staff," Smothers said. "Marvell has great work habits. He is never late and never misses a practice."
Davis serves as linebackers and tight ends coach for the Blue Eagles and with good reason. Davis was a linebacker/tight end when he played at W.S. Neal from 1988-91. Davis later played two seasons at Livingston College after his graduation from high school.
"I didn't want to coach a position I hadn't played before. Linebacker and tight end are what I played and it's what I know," Davis said.
Davis looks for some distinguishing characteristics when trying to find the right players for those spots.
"For a tight end, I look for somebody with a strong upper body who can block. We like for them to be able to catch the ball, but that's a bonus. We're fortunate right now to have a great player like that in Cory Freeman," Davis said. "A linebacker needs to be smart and see the field well. They have to be able to run well and, of course, tackle."
Smothers said even though Davis is a volunteer coach, he is treated the same as the rest of
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"He gets the same material the rest of us do and the same responsibilities. The only difference between Marvell and the rest of us on the staff is we're in the school building teaching and he isn't," Smothers said. "Actually I wish Marvell would go back to school and get a teaching degree so we could put him on the staff with full-time status, but that's tough for him to do with his day job."
Davis got his start on the sidelines under former Blue Eagles mentor Jim Fountain.
"I owe a lot to Coach Fountain for giving me a chance to help coach. He saw something in me and gave me an opportunity," Davis said. "Both Coach Fountain and Coach Smothers are good head coaches. I've learned a lot from both. They have different styles. Coach Fountain had been here a long time and his coaching style was pretty basic. Coach Smothers' schemes are more open field."
Davis has been a part of a steady rise in the Blue Eagles' program. The year before Davis joined the staff in 2000, W.S. Neal went 3-8 in a season where it snapped a 16-game losing streak. W.S. Neal went 6-5 the following year, then 6-4 and finally 10-3 and a berth in the state quarterfinals last year.
"I give a lot of credit to last year's seniors for helping turn the program around. We didn't have a lot of seniors (nine) in that group, but they were great quality. The program was really in a tailspin when they entered high school as freshmen, but they got things turned around in the right direction," Davis said.
The wins are nice, but Davis said his greatest satisfaction comes when he sees players advance to the collegiate level.
"Last season we had three players, Alphonso Gross (West Virginia), Marcus Folmar (Louisville) and Chris Jonson (Itawama Junior College) sign at the next level. That is what it is all about," Davis said.
Smothers said Davis' voluntary contributions to the program are priceless.
"Having gone to school here and having played here, Marvell knows where his loyalites are. He knows the history and tradition of the school. Marvell is an Eagle," Smothers said. "The players love him and they respect him. He mixes in well with the rest of our coaches. Marvell is the kind of person who doesn't know a stranger."