Gabriel Davis-The Orlando Times
UCF’s Gabriel Davis Is A Standout Athlete And Young Man
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
ORLANDO - Born in Fernandina beach, FL, Gabriel Davis was raised in the heart of Sanford, the same place his mother, Alana Davis, grew up.
During her senior year of high school Alana became pregnant with Gabe. Deciding that it would be the best option for her and her now 2-year-old son, she moved back to Sanford, where she raised him as a single mother.
One day while spending time with his granddad, Gary Davis, his interest was piqued when he noticed the Sanford Pop Warner Football Field across the street. Ever-eager to get on the field, even before he was old enough to join little league, his mother promised him that when he was of age she would allow him to play. No doubt this interest came partly due to his grandfather’s love of football, a connection via the sport that they share to this day.
“The funny thing is when he started, the first week of little league is about conditioning but that second week it was time to put on the pads and hit somebody and he didn’t like it,” said Alana. “I went to his room the next day and he was crying, and he said that he didn’t like it. I think it was that physical contact that made him think twice about it.”
Although she felt bad, a male coworker encouraged her to make Gabriel stick to his initial agreement and not to allow him to give up on football. While difficult for her she marks it as “the best thing I could have done” because all he has achieved.
“Football has been the sport I have always been around,” said Davis. “I was raised that men were tough, and they had to play a sport, I thought football was the best one and ended up falling in love with it.”
Gabriel went on to attend Wicklow Elementary, Millennium Middle, and then Seminole High School where he excelled in both academics and athletics.
He was an excellent student, always on the A-B honor roll and being recognized for the good citizenship award. Disciplined throughout his years in school, he took advanced classes while in middle school and every year was nominated for the academic achievement award. In high school he took a couple of AP classes and was given a recommendation letter for his UCF application from one of his AP teachers.
“Although, I would never want to take away from his hard work that earned him a spot to be a ‘starter’ on a division 1 football team, that is only a small fraction of who he is, as a young man,” shared Alana. “His athleticism is the primary reason that he has gotten him all this attention, but Gabriel is a young man of many layers. Who he is on the inside and his approach to life extends well beyond the football field. As his mother, I want people to know that he is more than just an athlete.”
Despite his love for the sport, becoming a professional football player, yet alone a college athlete, was not an original goal for Davis.
“I never thought about playing college football or anything like that. I remember when someone told me I couldn’t play receiver, or I couldn’t be starting receiver at the high school I was going to go to. I got older and I remember [that rejection] to this day and how I told myself I was going to be better than all of them. A lot of them who said that aren’t in the position I am now,” said Davis.
Facing critics wasn’t his only obstacle. He notes that “being around the wrong crowd” was something he had to learn to avoid if he was going to stay focused on his dream.
“My mom [is my inspiration]; watching how she was able to raise all three of us by herself,” said Davis. “The reason I’m here playing this game is to take care of my mom, so she never has to work again. I just knew that once that was in my mind I was never going to do anything that would harm that or make something like that not happen.”
Gabriel is the oldest of 3 siblings, he has a younger sister Kayla and a younger brother Jordan.
“Even though a child should never feel that pressure, I think once he realized I was a single parent, that shaped and molded him into becoming my protector…even for his sister and brother,” his mother said, almost in tears. “I think that developed him into a strong young man who is very wise beyond his years. He’s been a great son.”
Throughout his years of Pop Warner and other football leagues Gabe has developed close and meaningful relationships with his teammates and their families.
“I got to know Gabe when he was around 8 or 9 years old. He and my son, along with some other young men who graduated with them, played together so I watched him grow up,” said Coach Wiggins of Seminole High School. “Gabe is like a son to me, he is a very hard-working and driven man.”
While in Sanford Pop Warner, Gabe and his family met the Tichinoff family. Tony and his wife Monica embraced Alana and her family right away. Their four sons quickly developed lasting friendships with Gabe and his brother and for a while they attended Safe Harbor church together.
“Gabe Davis is self-driven yet very coachable,” said Tony Tichinoff, the patriarch of the family and mentor for Gabe. “He puts a lot of effort into everything he does, 110%. He’s a unique individual in that he doesn’t let anything get in his way, there is so much to distract him, but he wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in.”
Some of his athletic accomplishments include: being named First Team Florida Class 8A All-State, tallied 69 receptions for 1347 yards (19.5 avg) with 17 TDs in 2016, he was honored as Orlando Touchdown Club’s Offensive Player of the Year, he received three stars from 247, ranking No. 285 among wide receivers and No. 313 in Florida, he earned three stars from ESPN, ranking No. 186 as a wide receiver and No. 207 in Florida, and he received three stars from Rivals.
“[I’m] very proud [of him],” said Tim Moxley, a former coach and close family friend. “He’s a young man of tremendous character and he’s always been a kid who cared about other people. He and my son Benjamin have become like brothers, he’s one of us. He’s a special young man.”
Gabe currently holds the position of wide receiver on The University of Florida’s (UCF) football team. The 6’3, 219lbs, college freshmen started his post-secondary career in a big way, with much praise from his current coach.
“Gabe Davis is a special kid,” said UCF Head Coach Scott Frost, during a press conference earlier this year. “He came in and right away as a freshman was one of our hardest working players.”
He has also developed a close brotherly relationship with his teammates.
“Gabe and I have been playing football together since we were in fifth grade,” said Marcus Byrd, a close friend of Davis and a freshman at Trine University. “Gabe is more than just a friend, he is like a brother to me because with all the things I’ve been through he’s been there to help me out.”
While being a star athlete and a great student are hard titles to obtain, Davis notes UCF’s strict schedule as what keeps him balanced.
“We have practice in the morning, so we get all the football stuff out of the way. We go from practice to class and then after class we have tutoring sessions and study hall. There are enough things set in front of us on our schedule to let us work and put our mind on school,” he said.
With a 12-0 season, UCF is on a role as they prepare for the Peach Bowl scheduled for January 1st. Davis is appreciative to be on the team and we concluded his interview with his words of advice for those younger than him.
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can do. You are in control of everything,” he said. “I feel that if someone says something negative you should take that and use it as a motivation. That’s the best, proving someone wrong, showing them, you can do something that nobody else said you could do.”