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Ryan Davis close to reeling in Pinellas County's passing record

Lakewood High School QB Ryan Davis on the field on the first day of high school football practice at Lakewood High in St. Petersburg Monday evening (08/05/13). Lakewood got a whopping 5 transfers from Northeast just two weeks before practice started up.
Published Nov. 27, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Barring something unforeseen, Lakewood High School's Ryan Davis should be Pinellas County's all-time leading passer by the end of Friday night's Class 5A region final at Live Oak Suwannee. He needs only 68 yards to break former East Lake standout Pete DiNovo's record of 6,733 career passing yards.

Not bad for a wide receiver.

"I've never broken a record before," Davis said. "It's exciting for the school. It's great to break a record like that. It's a milestone (I'd) always have."

For all of his success as a quarterback, Davis is being recruited by big-time Division I-A schools to catch passes, not throw them. Florida, Florida State and, most recently, Alabama are some of the schools that have made scholarship offers.

Davis knows that when he throws his last pass for the Spartans, it likely will be his last pass as a football player. And that dates back to youth leagues. In fact, he's not really sure when he last played wide receiver (discounting 7-on-7).

"Maybe in little league," Davis said.

It didn't take coaches long to figure out Davis was the kind of player who could score on every play. Instead of putting him out at wide receiver, where he might touch the ball 10 or 15 times per game, they put him at quarterback where he touched the ball on every play.

He played only three games as a freshman at Northeast due to injury. As a sophomore he threw for 2,120 yards. After transferring to Lakewood as a junior, Davis threw for 2,158 yards. This season he has 2,045 yards in 12 games. He also has 1,188 yards rushing this season.

"He's the kid that you want to have the football in his hands," Lakewood offensive coordinator and former Lakewood/Dixie Hollins and USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell said. "He understands the game so well. He knows the blocks and the schemes.

"And he's the ultimate team player. That's going to take him a long way."

It also helps that Davis has seen this before. His older brother Chris played quarterback at St. Petersburg Catholic before playing wide receiver at Florida State. That's likely how most people remember Chris Davis as a football player. And when it's all over, Ryan Davis would like people to remember him as a college receiver instead of a high school quarterback.

"I bet people are going to wonder how I played quarterback," Davis said. "But I think all of this will help me at the next level. I know how to read coverages. I know how a quarterback thinks."

There are plenty of area players and coaches who are glad they don't have to worry about Davis anymore. He has been a pain in the neck for almost four years.

Perhaps no one knows that more than Tarpon Springs coach Ron Hawn, who has coached against Davis — and lost to him – four times.

"What sets him apart is that he is not only a good runner, but he's a great passer," Hawn said. "He has beaten us with his arm and his feet. He can do everything well."

St. Petersburg coach Joe Fabrizio is 1-2 against Davis, with the lone win coming this season. Fabrizio said preparing for Davis makes for a long week of practice.

"He's a kid who makes you hold your breath," Fabrizio said. "He's got the ball in his hands every single play. You just have to hope that you can contain him, because you aren't going to totally stop him."

College recruiters aren't going after Davis as a wide receiver just on a hunch. He spent his summers playing 7-on-7 with Team Tampa as a receiver. It is there that he turned heads and convinced recruiters that he can play the position in college.

"You can't be in that position and do the things he does if you can't play quarterback," Blackwell said. "But he's a dynamic wide receiver.

"If he was 6-2, he'd be a top-five receiver in the country."

Davis is listed as 6 feet, 180 pounds, which might be generous. Despite his size, he has no fear of running up the middle. He also isn't afraid to launch a tight spiral 50 yards down the field.

Because of Davis' experience and versatility, Lakewood coach Cory Moore has put all of his trust in him. Davis led the Spartans to the Class 5A state semifinals last season, and if it's going to happen again, Moore will live and die with his senior quarterback.

In the region quarterfinal against Gulf, Davis scored the winning touchdown on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line in overtime. Last week, he scored three of Lakewood's four touchdowns in a 26-3 victory over River Ridge.

"We've got a lot of guys on this team, but Ryan's a dude," said Moore, laughing. "He is the man. He's the kind of player who can put a team on his back and say, 'Let's go.' "

Davis wants nothing more than to extend his high school career.

"I just want to see what it's like to play in Orlando (in the state final)," Davis said. "Not just for me personally, but for this school and this county and this area.

"There have been so many talented players come through here. I think it's about time Lakewood went to the state tournament."

As for a college decision, Davis said he'll continue to see what kind of offers come his way. He plans to take a few more official visits before making his final choice.

Wherever he goes to start his new career, he said he will always look back with pride on his years as a high school quarterback, perhaps even a record-setting quarterback.

Contact Rodney Page at page@tamapbay.com. Follow @RodneyHomeTeam.

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