Josh Davis is headed for the University of Tennessee. The Rhea County punter, after months of waiting on an NCAA scholarship offer, agreed to become a preferred walk-on for the Volunteers this August.
NCAA rules limit a Division I school to 120 on its football roster when preseason practice begins.
“I’m not sure that Josh would have agreed to a scholarship offer elsewhere once he got things worked out in Knoxville,” said Mike Davis, Josh’s father and one of his coaches.
Davis was named to the Best of Preps all-area team after averaging 44.9 yards per punt last fall.
“I felt sure he would sign somewhere. I was surprised he didn’t get any offers. No, I was shocked,” Rhea coach Jason Fitzgerald said. “We found out that schools rarely give scholarships to punters. Almost everybody we talked to wanted to know if he could (place-)kick also.
“Most Division I schools only want to have one punter (out of 85 players) on scholarship, and the I-AA schools — with 63 scholarships — don’t want to put a punter on scholarship unless they know he’s going to be the man.”
It looked for a while as if Akron was going to extend Davis an offer, but his primary contact there, assistant head coach Bill Bleil, went to Iowa State. Then Miami of Ohio seemed a possibility and didn’t come through.
Fitzgerald also talked with Illinois State, Iowa State, VMI, West Virginia, Alabama, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, UT-Chattanooga and Southern Mississippi about Davis.
“That’s just the people that wanted film. What we kept hearing was, ‘We like him. If we could just get him in here and then him win the job,’” Fitzgerald said. “So it came down to in-state schools. All the NAIA-type schools wanted him, but he wants to go try the big time.”
So Davis and his dad met with Eddie Gran, UT’s new running backs and special teams coach.
“Josh is going to be OK,” Mike Davis said. “He’s going to get a chance, and I think that’s where he wanted to go all along.”
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...