Toledo Technology Academy graduate Jeremiah Davis, left, looks to break up a pass intended for Cam Saddler during the University of Pittsburgh's annual intersquad Blue-Gold game at Heinz Field.
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The life of a walk-on in college football isn't an easy one.
Jeremiah Davis, a Toledo Technology Academy graduate who is a fourth-year walk-on defensive back for the University of Pittsburgh football team, has learned that lesson time and time again.
"It's been kind of up and down taking the route of a walk-on," Davis said. "You don't really know what you're getting into until you get into it. But I really don't regret the decision. It's been a good experience."
Since his high school did not field athletic teams, Davis played football for his father, Matt, at Scott.
Davis was an All-City League selection at quarterback and free safety as a senior. He also was a four-year letterman in track and field, in addition to lettering in basketball and being on the honor roll.
"That was one of the greatest experiences in the world playing for my dad," Davis said. "A lot of times the reason things don't work out between a player and a coach is because the player doesn't trust the coach's decision in every scenario.
"But when the coach is your father, he's somebody you've been around your whole life. There wasn't a scenario he put me in that I didn't trust."
Coming out of high school, Davis did not have any scholarship offers to continue his playing career at the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) level. He did get an offer from the University of Toledo to be a preferred walk-on with the Rockets, but turned that down and instead enrolled at Pittsburgh.
"My senior year didn't play out the way I wanted it to, and I didn't get as many looks as I felt I should have," Davis said. "I was probably a little under-sized [at 5-foot-10] coming out of high school.
"When I visited Pitt on an academic visit, I really liked the campus and then kind of looked into the [football] program and felt like I could compete here. I figured I'd try and walk on, and if it didn't work out, at least I was already at a school that I liked."
Things worked out well for Davis, who joined the team in 2008 during his freshman year. He ended up sitting out as a redshirt that season but made his mark on the scout team the following year when he was named Pitt's "special teams prep player of the year."
Last season, Davis played in four games and this year he's played in every game as a backup free safety and special teams player.
Although Davis, who graduates this spring with a marketing degree, said this may end up being his final season on the football team, he has cherished his time with the Panthers.
"I think the biggest life lesson I've learned being a walk-on here is not to take anything for granted," Davis said. "Nothing is guaranteed for you, no matter what you do. You have to approach everything [with the standpoint of] working for what you want."
Most walk-ons don't last as long as Davis has with Pitt because of the on-field demands and off-field hardships of paying their own way while balancing academics and other commitments.
"It just tells you what kind of person he is and the family he comes from," Pitt secondary coach Tony Gibson said. "It shows how important football is to him, and everything about him represents our program well. You want your kid to grow up and be like the kind of guy he is. I love being around him."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.
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