By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A brief morning wait that spilled into a long afternoon. A stoic, silent ride to Temple University Hospital. Followed by what seemed like floating through miles of long, white antiseptic halls that led to a vision of a man who instilled so much in him lying there helpless clinging to each breath.
These are the visions that resonate in Shane Davis’ head each time he puts on a football helmet. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound St. Joseph’s Prep senior left guard can’t escape it. It’s part of him.
It’s what Davis will think about when the Hawks try and repeat as PIAA Class AAAA state champions against undefeated Pine-Richland (15-0) Saturday at 6 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.
Davis, an overgrown teddybear with a soft voice and magnetic personality, will go back to the day that he waited in front of the St. Joe’s Prep Girard Street campus, back to Monday, May 21, 2012, waiting for a father who never arrived.
It’s the day Shane’s father, Shawn Davis Sr., was murdered.
But at 11:30 a.m. on May 21, no one told Shane, then a freshman at Prep. An hour later, still waiting, Shane didn’t know. Three hours later, still nothing. No one was answering their cell phones. Finally, at around 5 that afternoon, a family friend showed up, summoned Shane to get into the car and they drove to Temple Hospital.
The family friend wore a blank expression looking straight ahead, no eye contact with Shane.
“That told me something was wrong,” Shane said. “My father was stopping to get gas on his way to pick me up from school and he was targeted, he was shot at multiple times in the chest and toward the face, and his friend was in the car with him. My father got back in the car and was trying real hard to drive the car. My father, being all of the man that he can be, he made it about a block before the car actually flipped over.
“I was a freshman and it was the middle of finals. I was never really told. He was on his way to come and get me from school, and I was sitting out there on the steps for what like felt like forever. Finals finished at 11:30 that morning and they let us out early. I sat there on those front steps the longest time, calling everyone, and no one was picking up. Everyone knew what happened, but me. When the family friend arrived, they took me to Temple Hospital, and led me to the floor where my father was. ”
Shane briefly saw his father alive, but unconscious. A few hours later, he was told his father had died.
“I saw my father and I was absolutely distraught, but I remember I wasn’t crying,” Shane recalled. “I was sitting there thinking I couldn’t bring myself to cry. I just couldn’t.”
Shane couldn’t see himself there sobbing, hugging people; it’s not how his father was. Instead, he bent his mind to think of all the good times he had with him; of the times picking him up from school and going to one those weird, little restaurants Shawn would find.
There was a thing Shane’s father used to say: “Are you asking me or are you telling me?” It’s the last thought Shane had the final time he saw his father alive.
The amazing thing is two days later, Shane went back to school to finish his finals. Shawn Davis Jr. wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s why Shane went right back to spring football practice—three days after his father’s funeral. The Prep was willing to give Shane all the time off he wanted. He didn’t want it.
Shane’s gradually healed, but he bottled the experience.
When Shane arrived at The Prep, he was an admitted jelly belly. Always large for his age, Shane found football by way of a grade school coach who literally pulled by the side of the road to speak with a young, grade-school Shane about playing.
Hawks’ coach Gabe Infante goes back to the very large 368-pound freshman who had trouble getting down into a stance or even walking.
“I was fat, I was 368 when I entered the program,” Davis says today, laughing. “I can say that now, because I lost so much weight. I have the greatest respect for people who diet and lose weight to get in better shape. There were a lot of times I spent alone running, working out. I wanted to contribute and I knew something big was happening here, and I wanted to commit myself to being a part of it, a big part of it.”
Shane decided if he was going to go running after mid-term exams, he would. If it meant running after practice, there chugging around the field already drenched in sweat, Shane would do it. He strengthened his core.
He enlisted his teammate, Prep star tailback Olamide Zaccheaus, one of his best friends, to do pass-blocking drills together, thinking if he can block the speedy Zaccheaus, he could reach anyone.
“I used to call Olamide during the week, and he said, ‘I got you,’ and there were a few times I even accidentally punched him in the face because I was working on striking a little bit,” Shane said. “I also relied on Coach Infante quite a bit during this time. He went through a lot of the same things I did. His father died when he was around the same age I was when my father was shot. We shared a lot of things, and he helped me through so much.”
Shane remembers another of his father’s sage saying, “You’ll never be lost, if you your next step.” Words Shane absorbed during the entire mourning period.
“I did what my father wanted me to do, I started losing weight and adjusting my attitude,” said Shane, who carries a 3.1 GPA at Prep. “I wanted to put myself out there and become more of a leader, someone people could depend on.”
He’s the Prep’s student council president, the first African-American to hold the position at Prep since the late-1960s. He’s getting college looks from St. Francis and Lafayette.
The Hawks are preparing to win another state title on Saturday. But in the minds of many at Prep, Shane’s already won.
“Shane and I bonded on so many different levels, and I can remember early on, Shane wouldn’t go to class and he would sit in my office and we would spend time talking,” Infante said. “His growth as a person has been remarkable, and to overcome what he has, and be where Shane is today is amazing. He embodies Prep football. He’s what we’re trying to do here, because he’s a tremendous young man.
“I love this kid—and he knows that. He’s a talented young man who lost all of this weight and I remember watching him run around the track his sophomore year to lose it. That says something about the character of this young man. He has amazing self determination and discipline. We’re playing for a state championship, and we wouldn’t be where we are without Shane Davis—and I mean what Shane has meant to me, to all of his Prep family, on and off the field.”
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