Tennessee vol

Davis, fellow Vols host third annual football camp at Sullivan East

To the outsider it might look easy enough. Dayne Davis begs to differ.

“It is a lot,” said Davis, the Sullivan East graduate and University of Tennessee football player, who hosted his third annual football camp on Saturday on the eye-catching and very warm turf field at Sullivan East. “Some guys I have talked to on the team want to have their own camp and they are like, ‘What do I have to do to get this camp, it is not a lot, is it”? I am like, ‘You are mistaken. It is a lot’.”

Don’t look for complaints from any of the Tennessee contingent, including 11 current Volunteers, and Tennessee “legend” Jabari Davis, all of whom led the kids – kindergarten through eighth grade – through a two-hour camp that included working on fundamentals and breaking into position groups for more instruction. That was followed by the players signing autographs for the kids and members of the community, in addition to lunch provided by Pizza Plus of Bluff City.

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“Sometimes you don’t know if they are here for the football camp or the pizza,” said Davis, with a smile.

Davis was joined at Sullivan East on Saturday by several Tennessee teammates, including center Cooper Mays and wide receiver Bru McCoy, both of whom spoke to the media prior to returning to Knoxville to serve as hosts for recruits later that night.

“The biggest thing is I think everybody in our little football family supports each other and helps each other,” Mays said. “Dayne is one the best guys in our facilities, he shows who he is day-in and day-out. He is a great guy.

“I just love what he is trying to do around here for his hometown. I can emphasize with that a little bit so just getting out here and supporting him and just being there for him because I know he would be there for me.”

McCoy echoed those sentiments, even while fighting off the sweat bees that were hovering around the complex.

“Dayne, first he is like a friend, a brother, a teammate, he is like family to me so him asking me to come out and support him in his hometown is like an easy call,” McCoy said. “It is like ‘I will be there for you and I will come out here and help and do what I can.’ I like to give back to the community so it is cool to be able to do both, help Dayne out and give back.”

In addition to Mays and McCoy, the Tennessee contingent also included quarterbacks Jake Merklinger and Gaston Moore, running back Dylan Sampson, tight end Charlie Browder – a former standout at nearby Dobyns-Bennett – and fellow offensive linemen Andrej Karic and Jackson Lampley. Defensive lineman Elijah Simmons and linebacker Keenan Pili also served as coaches.

It is those type of relationships that Davis has been blessed to experience from his days playing at Sullivan East to his tenure now in his sixth season playing football at Tennessee. His former basketball coach John Dyer was in attendance on Saturday to see his former pupil in action.

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“I was talking about that with Coach Dyer, first time seeing him for a while,” Davis said. “The relationships I have been able to build with the guys I have played with, it tells me a lot about those relationships and what they think of me. That is a good drive for them to come down here and devote their time to kids in the community that they ever met before and might not meet again.

“It is just really cool to have those relationships with those guys and for them to be able to come down and help me serve my community.”

Those 11 were joined by Jabari Davis, a running back at Tennessee from 2001-04, who runs the Legends of Tennessee Football Camp, which was held last weekend in Sevierville and in past years at Virginia High School.

“The kids are great,” said Dayne Davis, whose camp didn’t host the high school aged kids like they had the previous two years due to the limited number of coaches available. “We had about 90 kids today, I don’t have a complete count yet, but a ton of kids came out and I am just super-excited, even with the break we had not doing high school this year. Ninety K-8th graders, that will wear you out almost as much as it wears them out.”

There are certainly challenges to putting together a football camp, beginning with getting teammates willing to make the trip and Davis was able to make that happen with a little help from his friends.

“The big thing is making sure guys get here safe, guys are able to come up here. I am able to accommodate them with hotels, just have a place to stay and have a good time,” Davis said. “We have been able to do that, Guthrie Dentistry has helped us out a lot with that. Thanks to them, just being able to house those guys, feeding them good and have them here in the morning for the kids.”

Made possible through the always-growing-NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) legislation, Davis has enjoyed the support of numerous local businesses, including Pizza Plus, Guthrie Dentistry, Food City, BSN Sports, D1, West Hills Tractor and Associated Orthopaedics. There’s more, including Davis’ girlfriend, Gracyn Fox, who Davis credits with much of what takes place.

“My girlfriend helps out a lot, my family, her family, super thanks to her,” Davis said. “She works super hard and she is probably the unseen super hero. I appreciate her a lot.”

That, and the use of Sullivan East High School facilities, which have definitely changed since Davis played football and basketball at the school.

“Then it wasn’t turf here at East, it was the ‘Patriot Pasture’ like they liked to call it,” said Davis, with a smile. “A lot of great memories playing here with a lot of guys. It is just great to be able to come back here and see the kids that are able to inherit this beautiful field out here that they have and to just be able to come out here and have camp with them and have a great time with them. It was awesome.”

So was seeing Dyer, the ultra-popular former Sullivan East boys basketball coach who now serves in the same role at West Ridge.

“Accountability, trust-worthiness. That was Coach Dyer’s model,” Davis said. “We played together, it was a family team. That was probably the biggest thing, to stress family. That is all you felt around Coach Dyer and my four years here in basketball were great. I have a ton of memories of all of the guys I played with and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”

A third Dayne Davis Football Camp is in the books. Davis knows what he hopes the kids got out of the experience in addition to memories that could last a lifetime.

“I think they enjoy the football a lot,” Davis said. “I just hope that they are able to take some of things the guys teach them out and take it back home and use it for the better of their game and better their technique. Hopefully that is something they can carry from this field at this camp to their football seasons in the fall and better prepare them for this season coming up in East Tennessee.”

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