There might have been times Chris Davis wished he’d dropped a few balls or run sloppier routes that first summer, especially since he didn’t catch a single pass that fall. Now he’s a senior, while other members of UNM’s 2014 recruiting class, running back Tyrone Owens, offensive guard Aaron Jenkins, fellow wide receiver Patrick Reed, are fourth-year juniors.
Most often, though, Davis is more than happy to be a 2017 senior — and having the most productive season of his career.
Through five games, entering Saturday’s Mountain West Conference game at Fresno State, Davis leads the Lobos (3-2 overall, 1-1 in MWC play) with 17 receptions. That’s almost one-third of UNM’s team total (53) and seven more than he caught during his first three seasons.
Davis’ 5-yard touchdown reception from redshirt freshman quarterback Tevaka Tuioti against New Mexico State sparked a 23-point fourth quarter that brought the Lobos within two points of the Aggies in a 30-28 loss. It was the first touchdown of Davis’ college career.
His 11-yard, third-down catch of a Coltin Gerhart pass on the sidelines in the second quarter at Tulsa kept alive a drive that produced a 34-yard Jason Sanders field goal. The Lobos won by three points.
To become his team’s go-to receiver as a senior, Davis said after Wednesday’s practice, is reward enough.
“It feels good,” he said. “I never gave up on myself or quit working hard. And there were always older guys ahead of me that I learned from. Whether it was Gambo (Dameon Gamblin) or Carlos (Wiggins), Ridge (Jones), those guys always told me to be patient, that my time was coming.
“I had guys ahead of me that were great players. Carlos was playing slot, and then Gambo came in. It was OK. … They helped me work on my route running and taught me little things in the game that help me now. I try to do that for the younger kids now.”
Lobos coach Bob Davie said he’s glad Davis persevered. Two other members of that 2014 recruiting class, wide receiver Matt Quarells and quarterback JaJuan Lawson, opted to leave the program before this season as graduate transfers — Lawson to Rhode Island, Quarells to Iowa.
“I appreciate those guys, too,” Davie said, “But I really appreciate a guy like Chris Davis staying and accepting his role. And every time he gets a chance in his role, he makes the most of it.”
Making the most of his ability has always been a Davis specialty.
“He’s the, quote, unquote, really good football player,” Davie said. “Not very fast, not very big, just a really good football player.
“He’s a very productive guy, and he’s kind of the old veteran of that (wide receivers) group. I respect him and I appreciate him, because he’s put a lot into this.”
As a senior at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif., Davis caught 88 passes for 1,606 yards and 20 touchdowns. But because of his size, or lack of it, no Pac-12 school recruited him. Listed in high school at 5-foot-9 and 173 pounds, Davis in fact stands 5-foot-7. He weighed closer to 160 pounds as a prep senior, he said, and now is listed at 175.
So, when UNM offered him a scholarship, he grabbed it. He’s grabbed virtually everything that’s been thrown his way since, even though most of those catches have come in practice and not in games.
For Davis and his fellow wide receivers, playing in UNM’s triple-option offense, it’s block and be ready.
“We know what kind of offense we are, but as receivers that makes us even hungrier,” he said. “Because when the ball does come our way, we have to take advantage of that opportunity.
“We may get three throws. Maybe we’ll get 20 throws. Whatever it is, we’ve just got to catch everything. … We pride ourselves on that.”
Having a redshirt year, Davis said, is still something he thinks about occasionally.
“Sometimes I do wish I could have (had one), just to develop, I guess, a little more,” he said. “… I could have gotten a little more muscle on me and probably gotten myself a little quicker and a lot faster.
But, he said, “I’ve had fun all four years. I’m just thankful, this year, that I get to showcase what I can do.”