TAMPA — Ryan Davis admits he sometimes would slack off on his schoolwork. Get a little "lazy." Worry more about football than phonics.
Precious Davis made sure those times were few and far between.
"She wasn't crack the whip stern," Davis said of his mother. "But if I brought home bad grades you can bet that I was in big trouble."
Davis will have a chance to pass his mother's message along to local kids when the Jacksonville Jaguar linebacker hosts the second annual Back to School Bash at Dowdell Middle School on July 15.
"She's a big reason I excelled in school and made it all the way through college," Davis said. "It's because of her instilling the importance of hard work early on in my life."
Davis, who starred at Blake, said he plans to exceed the 500 backpacks full of school supplies handed out last year. In addition to the school-ready backpacks, there will be a DJ, bounce house, catered food and a shaved ice machine.
"The turnout last year was bigger than I expected," he said. "And we hope it just keeps getting bigger each year."
Davis said hosting the event at Dowdell, a school he attended as a youth, has special meaning for him.
"Dowdell is where I went to middle (school), and I used to be right there in the park," he said. "That's where I spent my time after school and every summer. I'm just so glad the whole neighborhood turned out last year and had a good time."
Davis left Bethune-Cookman a semester early to prepare for the NFL. He promptly returned the next year to wrap up his mass communications degree.
"I'm definitely thankful looking back and all the things (my mom) taught me as a kid," Davis said. "I'm just glad that my mom was strong enough to stay on top of me. It all makes sense to me now."
2016 will be Davis' fifth season with the Jaguars after signing with Jacksonville in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. He's compiled 10 sacks and three fumble recoveries the past two years at defensive end.
"This year we expect to contend for the AFC South title and make that playoff push," Davis said. "Personally, I just want to go out there and be an instant contributor."
This season, however, Davis will be looked to contribute at a different position. The Jaguars decided to move the versatile 6-foot-2, 270-pound Davis to a position they call the "Lotto." That means Davis will be a hybrid between the Jags' "Leo" (weak-side defensive end) and the "Otto" (strong-side linebacker).
"No matter where I am on the field, I have to go out there and make plays," Davis said. "I think this switch to linebacker is a great move not only for this season, but for my career."
Precious Davis, who will again assist in putting on the event, said she is thankful her insistence on instilling the importance of school in her son's life is now being paid forward years down the road.
"You're never really sure as a mom what is sinking in and what isn't," she said. "But he's a great role model for the kids around here, and the whole community is just so excited about this event."