||Howland HS, Warren, OH|
Although it happens every year, it's no less surprising when a prospect, highly coveted by several big-time programs, sneaks under the radar screen of gurus and internet recruitniks across the country until a public pledge is made. It happened again yesterday when it was discovered that Howland High School's Tony Davis decided to accept a scholarship offer from Penn State.
"Traditionally, Howland hasn't been a very good program," head coach Dick Angle said in explanation of the lack of publicity for his star player. "We've only been there 5 years."
Things, however, are turning around for the Tigers, who went 9-4 last season and boast a handful of players being sought after by Division I coaching staffs. Prior to his arrival at Howland, Angle coached at nearby Ursuline High School in Youngstown, Ohio.
"I had an opportunity to coach Michael Echols for 4 years when I was at Ursuline. He was a 4-year starter at Wisconsin and now he's with the Titans. I really compare Tony a lot to Michael. When Tony was a sophomore, I told my coach, 'This guy really reminds me of Michael Echols'. He's maybe a step slower than Michael, but he's bigger, stronger and more physical.
"He's a great athlete and a great person. He played a little tailback for us and some flanker."
Davis, however, projects to play cornerback at the next level, a position at which he excels.
"He's been a 2-year starter for us. He missed one game last year because of a bad ankle, so he's played 22 out of 23 football games for us.
"As a sophomore, he had 3 interceptions. This past year, he had 4 interceptions, 15 knocked down passes, rushed for over 700 yards as a part-time tailback scoring 11 touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 200-plus yards. He's just a strong character person. He was an All-Conference defensive back for us. He's been MVP at numerous track meets this year. He's having a great spring running track and just continues to get in the weight room and work. He's a constant worker and a good leader by example.
"We took him on 4 unofficial visits. He visited Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Penn State."
Davis' visit to Happy Valley took place on Wednesday, April 23.
"He was very impressed with the coaches and the players. Coach Paterno impressed him. He really came back wanting to commit, but I have a policy that you have to have a cool-down period. He cooled down and he still had the same excitement."
When did the Nittany Lions offer Davis a scholarship?
"Right after Joe met him. They sent him an offer in writing. Jay has been recruiting him. It's a no-brainer. The kid's exceptional on tape and once you meet him and see what a quality kid he is, you just get excited about him. He's had about 30 schools in looking at him, wanting to look at him, but we kind of limited it to the 4 he was interested in.
"Michigan State offered, Michigan was in the process of offering, Pitt offered, Wisconsin offered, every Mid-American school offered, Indiana offered, Iowa offered and Ohio State was on the verge."
Angle's description of Davis' prowess at the cornerback position should excite Nittany Lion fans fully aware of the team's need at the position.
"Aggressive. Blanket. He likes to get in your face, get in your hip pocket, he's a great defender."
"It's not official until next Wednesday," Davis said after confirming his decision to attend Penn State. "I'm having a press conference then."
The Nittany Lion coaching staff, however, has been informed of Davis' decision.
"They know I'm coming up. My coach called up there and told [Jay Paterno] today. I have to call him back tonight (Tuesday night) and he's going to talk to me more about it."
Who else offered him?
"Michigan State, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Miami of Ohio, Bowling Green, Indiana, but they wanted to wait until I came down to camp. Michigan said the same thing. They wanted me to come up during the summer camp so that all of the coaches could meet me in person, because when I went up there it was only Coach Carr and another coach. They were pretty sure they were going to [offer]."
The home-state Buckeyes were never really in the picture for Davis.
"I really wasn't interested that much [in Ohio State] because they recruited so many at my spot the year before. Coach Ankle kept them away really because I wasn't interested."
Tony talked about his first and only trip to Penn State.
"It was the Wednesday after Easter Sunday. I went with my defensive coordinator and the special teams coach. I just loved it, it was excellent. I can't really explain it, it was just great. We just met the players, met the coaches, Coach Paterno, we ate with him and just enjoyed the whole day. We also watched them practice. It felt like home. I feel real comfortable there."
What did Joe Paterno have to say?
"He just came to say hi and told me they wanted to offer me. He said he liked what he saw on film and liked me as a person."
Tony had been to MSU and Pitt prior to visiting Happy Valley. He took a trip to Ann Arbor the following day, but his affection for Penn State was unwavering.
"I plan on going up again early this summer so my mom and my father can see it. They haven't seen it yet."
Davis ran a best time of 14.5 seconds in the 110-meter high hurdles. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds to go along with an incredible 41-inch vertical leap.
"I'm trying to get a little faster. I train hard with my older brother Willie, he really pushes me."