Dylan Davis’ two favorite games are chess and football. Usually those players don’t run in the same social circles, but Davis has used the lessons learned on the chess board to reach his goals on the football field.
“I kind of grew up a nerd,” Davis said. “I played a lot of chess and my mom had me in the school books. I like thinking games, and chess has helped me on the football field. It’s thinking about what my opponent is going to do before he does it, and setting up moves before he can strike.”
Although Millikan has three other starting receivers with college scholarship offers, Davis leads the Rams with 43 receptions, 609 yards and five touchdowns this season. Specifically, his ability to catch the ball on the sidelines has been key to Millikan extending offensive drives.
“He’s definitely a thinker, and you can actually see it in the way he plays football,” said Davis’ dad, Chris Sr. “He really is a technician when it comes to his route running. That’s the thing that’s allowed him to excel, especially this year.”
Davis didn’t play any organized sport until playing football when he moved to Georgia for his middle school years. He was a member of the chess club at school, and far too small and slow to make a difference on the field.
“When I first started football I didn’t even know what positions there were, or even know what a first down was,” Davis said. “They just put me at wide receiver.”
“Even as a small kid he had big hands and could always catch the ball,” Chris Sr. said. “I would just throw harder and harder. People would even ask me why I was throwing the ball so hard, but if he can catch it, I’m going to keep throwing it until he shows me otherwise. It was apparent very early he had outstanding hands. The rest of it just needed to come together for him.”
Davis learned to really love the game of football from his older bother, Chris Jr., who went on to play professionally with the Canadian Football League. However, Davis’ physical stature didn’t match up with his desire.
After moving to California as an eighth grader, Davis quickly made friends with the Campbell family, and current Millikan running back Qu’Juan Campbell, during their Lakewood Pop Warner season together. That connection drew Davis to become a Ram, but he didn’t play much in his first two seasons with the lower level teams.
“When I saw my bothers on the field, and how hard they worked, it pushed me harder,” Davis said. “I just wanted to do the same thing.”
Davis rededicated himself in the weight room as a junior, and started taking track and field season seriously. That hard work paid off, and he won some playing time as a junior, but it wasn’t enough.
“We’ve always had good receivers, so I had to wait my turn,” Davis said. “Being overlooked this season has pushed me even harder.”
Not only is Davis a statistical leader for Millikan as a senior, he’s also a person his teammates can trust.
“The players naturally gravitate towards him because he listens,” Millikan coach Justin Utupo said. “He doesn’t have to do all of the talking and be the cool guy or the funny guy in the meeting rooms. He’s all about his business.”
Davis told his dad that his goal was to become a team captain as a senior, and although that didn’t happen, he has tried to take ownership of his position group.
“Instead of sulking, he takes pride in being a leader of the receivers, and that’s probably the thing I’m most proud of,” said Chris Sr., who is a paramedic with the Los Angeles Country Fire Department and volunteer on the Millikan sideline. “He’s a team-first guy.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of a player like Dylan for how far he’s come,” Utupo said. “He’s respectful, humble and takes coaching very well.”
Davis, who loves studying Black History and Martin Luther King, said he wants to keep his options open in terms of continuing his academic and athletic career in college. That makes sense for a kid who lives life like a chess player.
“Don’t ever feel rushed when you make your move, and always pay attention,” Davis said. “It’s a game of patience.”