Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of the “Next Up” series, which profiles the signees from Alabama’s 2016 class. SEC Country traveled around the South to visit the recruits before they reported to campus.
GORDO, Ala. — Ben Davis vividly remembers his first experience with football.
It was about middle school when the Gordo, Ala., native began playing the game he’d grow to love. And once he got his first taste of contact, the other sports just didn’t compare.
“It was like ‘This is it right here,'” Davis said, smiling. “This is what I’ve been looking for. There weren’t any fouls. You could hit anybody. It was the game for me.”
At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Davis is a physical specimen now. But it wasn’t always that way. Unlike a lot of high profile athletes, Davis wasn’t always bigger than those in his class.
“I had to work out and get bigger,” Davis said. “Grind and get in shape to be able to compete. As long as you have that competitive attitude and have an edge, you’re good.”
It also helped to be the son of Alabama legend Wayne Davis from both a physical standpoint as well as having a mentor around who had been through the rigors of playing football. Wayne Davis is still the all-time leading tackler at Alabama (327 in 1983-86).
“You see a lot of dads that try to force things on their kids. But he let me do my own thing,” Davis said. “It was better that way because it allowed me to grow. That’s why I love the game so much. It’s done a lot for me and my family. I’m glad I had my dad around throughout all of this.”
While humble, Davis remembers believing early that he could have a future in football. He used his work ethic, his “edge” and natural abilities to develop into one of the top recruits in the country.
Davis was a consensus 5-star prospect, and considered the top inside linebacker prospect by all four major recruiting services (ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports). 247Sports composite listed Davis as the No. 10 player nationally.
As a senior at Gordo, Davis recorded 105 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions while also catching 33 passes for 510 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was named first-team 3A All-State by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, and selected to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game where he was named defensive MVP.
“He’s a very explosive player. He makes plays,” said Ryan Lolley, Davis’ head coach at Gordo. “He’s fast and physical. He’s going to be around the football and has a nose for the ball. He’s a very good teammate, and a great leader on and off the field. The University of Alabama got a special guy when they got him.”
Davis picked Alabama over Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Notre Dame and others. Auburn made a serious push for the Alabama legacy, and almost landed him. But the pull of Tuscaloosa was too much.
“In my heart, I wanted to wake up every morning and go work out at Alabama and practice at Alabama,” Davis said. “I didn’t want to be at Auburn wishing I was at Alabama. I feel like that’s what would have happened if I went to Auburn, so that’s what helped me decide.”
Davis was born in Arizona, but moved back to Gordo prior to middle school. One of the first Alabama linebackers Davis remembers watching was Rolando McClain, whom he said Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt compared him to because he’s “a big guy in the middle who can rush the passer and cover.”
Davis heads to Alabama in hopes of becoming the next great inside linebacker like his father, McClain and a long list of other defensive stalwarts in the middle.
He isn’t concerned with chasing or breaking any of his father’s records. If it happens, great, but if not, Davis won’t stress over it. He’s just ready to compete.
“Alabama is getting a hard worker who’s going to come to work every day,” Davis said. “I’m going to give it all I can, and fly around and make tackles.”
THE NEXT UP SERIES
- Trevon Diggs forging his own path — and ready to ‘work my ass off’ to do it
- How Joshua Jacobs is putting his community on his back
- Jared Mayden picked Alabama because ‘it’s where cornerbacks go for football’
- B.J. Emmons won’t waste his opportunity to make an instant impact
- ‘Words can’t explain’ the special bond that drives Lyndell ‘Mack’ Wilson
- Gehrig Dieter ready to hit the field at his ‘dream school’
- Irvin Smith hopes to deliver more than pizza this season
- Shyheim Carter believes ‘one side of the field belongs to me’