TAMPA — Just like the ones in Robinson’s playbook, Malik Tyson has memorized the route to Jahrvis Davenport’s house, step by step.
Tyson leaves his garage on South Saint Patrick Street and walks down a short alleyway, taking a right turn at a large patch of grass. At one point the lot was supposed to be developed. Now it serves as the cut through between the teammates’ houses.
Best friends since meeting in the second and third grades at Rampello Downtown Partnership School, Davenport, a senior wide receiver, and Tyson, the Knights’ junior quarterback, make the four-minute trip frequently, meeting up at all times of the day to put in a little work.
“He’ll call me; it doesn’t matter if I’m asleep, late at night or early in the morning,” Tyson said. “He’ll just say, ‘Let’s go throw.’ ”
There in the space between South Saint Patrick Street and Shamrock Road, the two work on their timing and ball placement, and they walk through game situations. Tyson is hoping those extra practices and their decade-long friendship will pay off in his first season under center.
“I know exactly how he likes things, where he wants it, what he’s capable of,” Tyson said. “I know when he wants the ball. I know what he can do with the ball in his hands, and I trust him with it.”
Introduced by Tyson’s brother, Thomas, who is in Davenport’s grade, the future Knights became fast friends, sleeping over at each other’s houses and later playing football together for the middle school team at Rampello.
And the friendship wasn’t just reserved for the kids. Davenport and Tyson’s families started going out to dinner together after extracurricular activities. Soon, Tammy Tyson said, those meals turned into joint family vacations and trips to Treasure Island beach.
Malik Tyson fondly remembers those days spent by the ocean with Davenport, staying out until midnight burying each other in the sand. Now, the pair hopes to add touchdown passes to the memory vault.
Last year, Davenport led the Knights in receiving, finishing with 667 yards and eight touchdowns. In June, the three-star wide receiver committed to play football at Maryland. While watching her son’s best friend grow up, Tammy Tyson discovered Davenport’s potential years ago.
“We knew in sixth grade that Jahrvis was an amazing and talented individual. There was no doubting it,” she said. “When Malik finally admitted his sophomore year he could quarterback …I told him, ‘You do realize you’re going to be throwing to the Jahrvis Davenport.’ ”
The chemistry between the tight-knit Knights will be put to the test Friday, when Robinson takes on Sickles and five-star running back Ray Ray McCloud III. Davenport, though, isn’t too worried about it.
After all, he knows Tyson will be out there at the Gryphons’ Lair fighting for him. And just like he always has, Davenport can’t wait to return the favor.
“I’ve got to make plays for him,” Davenport said. “I want his stats to go up as well as mine, so I’m going to try and fight for that extra yard for him.”
Contact Kelly Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @_kellyparsons.