Charlotte 49ers cornerback Kedrick Davis admits he has something to prove this college football season.
A former high school standout at Charlotte’s Berry Academy and a transfer from North Carolina, Davis is getting his shot at meaningful playing time with the 49ers, who will host Elon Saturday night at Richardson Stadium.
But with his final season of playing eligibility, Davis knows this is his last chance – and he wants to make the most of it.
“I always feel like I have a chip on my shoulder,” said Davis, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound redshirt senior. “I felt like I was good enough to play (at North Carolina). Sometimes, the coaches think other players were better, but I always knew I could play in that system at that school.
“When I came here, I wanted to always play with that chip on my shoulder, because I knew I was good enough to start somewhere and play.”
A wide receiver at Berry Academy with 20 touchdown catches his final two seasons, Davis was a three-star prospect and ranked among the nation’s top 50 multi-purpose athletes by recruiting website Rivals.com.
Davis also won two state titles at the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 2A track and field championships as a junior.
He won the 100-meter dash in 10.47 seconds, then led off Berry’s 800-meter relay team that won in 1 minute, 26.14 seconds - both division records that stand five years later.
All that drew the attention of college football programs, with North Carolina beating out six schools that made scholarship offers, and five others showing interest in him.
But when Davis arrived for summer workouts leading into the 2012 season, the Tar Heels did two things under new coach Larry Fedora – they redshirted him and had him switch from offense to defense.
“I had never, ever played corner a day in my life until I switched over,” Davis said. “It was pretty tough – I knew I had a lot of speed, but it wasn’t about speed at that position.
“I’ve never held a backpedal as long as I had to (at cornerback), or broke on routes or had to tackle. But playing receiver definitely helped me, just knowing what they do and how they run routes.”
However, in his three seasons at North Carolina, Davis only saw meaningful playing time his redshirt sophomore year on the Tar Heels’ defense.
That year, Davis made his first career start (against Liberty in the 2014 season opener) and played in every game. There were highlights – he had his first career interception against the Flames, and blocked a field goal in a win against Pitt.
But there were very few highlights the next two seasons. Davis took the field with UNC’s defense just four other games, with most of his playing time on special teams.
It was that lack of playing time that led to Davis’ decision to transfer.
“Probably midway through the season, I mentioned to my mom (Brenda Davis) that I was wanting to transfer,” said Davis, who earned two degrees (urban development and sports management) at North Carolina. He’s working on his masters in special education.
“She told me to just take it a day at a time and see how things played out. But towards the end of the season, I decided that (transferring) would be a good move for me. I reached out to the coaches … and got my release papers. Once I reached that point, I knew there was no turning back.”
When the news became public, Davis said he was approached by two college programs. But he’d made his choice.
“I knew I wanted to be here,” Davis said of Charlotte. “I wanted to come home.”
Davis’ transfer couldn’t have come at a better time for the 49ers, who had one returning starter at cornerback, Terrance Winchester, also a Berry Academy alumnus.
Almost immediately, Davis was in the mix as a starter on the field, and had earned a leadership role off it.
“When Kedrick got here this summer, it made me a lot more comfortable,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “He’s a voice of experience from another university, so it’s been good having him in the locker room.
“Plus, he prepared extremely hard this summer and had a really good August camp. He also did some good things in the game Thursday.”
While the 49ers lost their season opener 70-14 to then-No. 19 Louisville last week, it gave Davis a chance to make plays. His biggest came in the third quarter, when his interception set up Charlotte’s first touchdown drive.
“It was right there,” Davis said. “It definitely broke the ice. I was excited about that, even though we lost.”
Chip on his shoulder
While Davis wants to focus on upcoming games with Charlotte, he admits his time at North Carolina has provided him with some incentive.
“I knew I could play there, but I honestly don’t feel I was presented the correct opportunity to show what I could do when the new coaches came in,” Davis said. “That’s what I mean when I say I play with a chip on my shoulder, just because I feel like I have something to prove, not only to myself.
“My last year at Carolina, I was beating myself up pretty bad about being there four years and only playing one. That kinda took a toll on me. It’s definitely got me playing with a chip on my shoulder.”
But Davis said he also sees some of that attitude in the 49ers’ locker room, especially after the loss to the Cardinals.
“The Louisville game, as much as we wanted to win, I told the guys right after the game, ‘Please don’t hang your heads, because this game is not going to define our season,’ ” Davis said.
“If anything, it’s going to help us find ourselves, find our team. The guys have bought into that, and I think we’re going to be fine this weekend.”