For former Flowery Branch defensive back Cortez Davis, earning an offer and eventually signing to play for the University of Hawaii was a combination of hard work and being in the right place at the right time.
After spending his first two collegiate years with Chattanooga — one taking a redshirt season and the next playing primarily on special teams — Davis chose to transfer to Itawamba Community College in northeast Mississippi.
The move proved to be a good choice for the young defensive back.
Davis recorded just four tackles as a redshirt freshman at Chattanooga, but he enjoyed a much improved sophomore season at Itawamba, notching 59 tackles, an interception and a sack to be named to the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges all-state first team. He played so well, that when Hawaii defensive coordinator Corey Batoon called up Itawamba offensive line coach and former co-worker at Ole Miss Emmanuel McCray asking for a recommendation for a defensive back, Davis sprang immediately to mind.
“(McCray) recommended me,” Davis said. “(Batoon) looked at my film. He called me. He told me to come on a visit.”
When Davis made the trip out to Manoa, Hawaii, there was a lot to like.
There were surf lessons — a sport he was new to, but one that he believes he’s “pretty good” at. There was mountain climbing, with peaks offering breathtaking views of the island. Davis even had the opportunity to branch out and sample some of the local cuisine, making particular note of his first taste of calamari.
But the biggest selling point for the program had nothing to do with the food, the beaches or the weather. Rather, Davis’ top reason for accepting the Rainbow Warriors offer was all about the football.
“We had something they call football school where we talked about where we fit in their scheme,” he said. “And that’s the part that really drew me to there, was their scheme.”
Hawaii’s five defensive back system appealed to Davis, and was reminiscent of the Chattanooga defense he was a part of for his first two years of college before his transfer.
It also didn’t hurt that Hawaii’s cornerbacks coach Abe Elimimian has experience in the NFL — making him an ideal mentor for Davis in achieving his ultimate goal of playing professionally someday.
“(Elimimian) has a lot of connections and knows a lot of players who currently play in the NFL right now,” Davis said. “I felt like he could help me get to where I’m trying to go.”
The decision takes Davis far away from home, a 10-hour flight separating him from his family. Still, as he prepares to fly out and begin classes next Monday, both he and his parents are taking the transition well.
For his mom and dad, Davis joked, the move provides “a great excuse” to make yearly vacations to Hawaii. As for Davis himself, it’s all about learning, improving and working toward his dream of someday taking his talents to the NFL.
“My ultimate goal from here is to just try to dominate the best that I can and really be a complete player both on and off the field,” Davis said. “I feel like their coaching staff and their scheme can help me do that.”