[Editor’s note: This story was first published in the Brenham Banner-Press on Aug. 24, 2012.]
Allow me to take a moment away from the world of sports, to pull off my proverbial journalist hat and say this, person to person: Thursday night’s prayer service for Justin Davis was a thing of beauty.
Regardless of your beliefs — whether you’re a believer in God, a God, a higher power or hold no belief at all — what happened Thursday at St. John AME Church was powerful. The community packed the pews, led in prayer by Rev. Alvin Larke and Rev. Randy Wells, and pulled together for one of its youngest stars.
As expected, the emotions ran high for all in attendance — especially for the Brenham football team who almost lost a brother Wednesday.
Davis suffered a stroke Wednesday after the Cubs’ football practice. Davis had gone to the coaching staff shortly after practice saying he had a headache. The training staff evaluated him for a concussion, and he was cleared after a series of tests determined such wasn’t the case. Davis went as far as to give Brenham coach Glen West a thumbs up that he was feeling better.
Shortly after as the Cubs were watching film from the day’s practice, Davis’ conditions worsened. As he tried to get up, he struggled with his balance. He was rushed to Scott & White-Brenham, where it was determined he suffered a stroke, and he was immediately transported to St. Joseph in Bryan. He was taken in for surgery, where surgeons put a stent in his carotid artery to allow blood to flow back to his brain, which was being blocked by a blood clot.
Doctors told West that the odds of a 17-year-old developing such a clot were one-in-a-million.
Davis had to go in for a second surgery Thursday, where doctors had to remove a portion of his skull to help alleviate pressure building in his head.
Reports Thursday night were positive. During the service it was announced that West had met with Davis and Davis gave West a firm squeeze with his hand, the first sign of response Davis had given. Davis also managed to move his legs.
For those of you who don’t know Davis, he is one of the most respectful athletes I have ever met. He’s a humble, quiet young man off the field, and is the epitome of the a player who lets his play do all his talking.
Back in February, we ran a feature on Davis in The Banner-Press. During the interview, Davis was quiet, giving nothing more than short answers — often citing the performance of his teammates rather than his own — but those answers were direct and to the point.
Brenham basketball coach Bruce King said that during the Cubs’ practices, Davis hardly spoke a word, rather going about what was asked of him in practice, always working to improve.
And that’s just Justin Davis for you. Watching Davis play a sport — whatever sport — you can see his hustle and determination, the drive to be the absolute best he can be, come out in his play. He’s not there to be a prima donna, or one to hold the spotlight.
Davis is the player who is often behind the scenes and makes the plays that set up those players who often receive the recognition. Yet don’t be surprised when Davis makes a stellar play of his own.
Such was the case in a Jan. 20 basketball game against Waller.
With the Cubs holding a commanding lead, Waller pulled up behind the 3-point arc, but the shooter only met Davis’ hand for a block. The ball looked to go out of bounds and the Waller offense stopped, waiting for a whistle.
Brenham’s Darrion Johnson then dove for the ball and flung it to the other side of the court where freshman Cub Earnest Patterson made another out-of-bounds save to Tremund Moore, who then found Davis, who hustled back to the other end of the court, for a layup.
That, to me, is Davis in a nutshell: never giving up until a final whistle is blown. It’s what multiple coaches, many players have said about JD, that he never gives less than 110 percent on a play.
Davis was also showing great promise during the Brenham football practices, where he was — is — a clear leader for the team.
And that’s what makes this situation so difficult. Not that it should happen to any 17-year-old, or any high schooler for that matter, but it especially should never happen to a young man like Justin Davis. A player who, undoubtedly, has so much going for him both as an athlete and a person. Reports are that Davis is receiving recognition from Division I colleges such as Texas Tech, Utah, New Mexico State and Arizona State for football.
Thursday, during Brenham’s football practice, the team elected him a captain.
Nearly the entire Brenham football team filled the first three rows of the pews Thursday at St. John to show their support for their senior captain.
“He’s a great friend of (the players),” West said.
Davis still isn’t out of the woods quite yet, as doctors said they are taking it 24 hours at a time. Davis remains in the Neuro Coronary Care Unit, where the next 48-72 hours are a crucial time, doctors said.
There’s the hopeful approach that he’ll make a full recovery — and based on his progress from Thursday, there is reason to believe he will.
“That’s all we can do is hope,” Brenham linebacker Desmond Lockett said. “Everything is going to be OK. We’ve just got to stick together and keep him in our prayers.”
A Facebook page has been set up for Davis named “Fundraiser for Justin Davis.” There has also been a fund set up at Wells Fargo in Brenham for those that would like to donate to help offset the cost of Davis’ medical bills.
Even Round Rock Westwood, a team the Cubs scrimmaged earlier today, is showing its support. The booster club held a fundraiser and planned on handing a check over to West following the scrimmage.
“I want to make sure that we hand the coach (West) a check for at least $500,” Jeff Thomas, president of the Westwood booster club, said.
As for the Cub football team, the players said it’s all about playing for Davis from here on out.
“Everything we’re doing is for JD,” Lockett said. “Every tackle we make is for JD. Every play we run is for JD.”
But this isn’t about football. This isn’t even about sports. This is about Justin Davis, the community and it getting one of its young, rising stars back to full health.
Thursday night was an excellent start.