WHSV Sports Presents: Triumph Over Tragedy
When Wayne Davis takes the field wearing a James Madison jersey, he is playing for more than just himself and his teammates.
Davis is in his second season with the Dukes and starts on defense at the SPUR position, which is hybrid between a safety, linebacker, and cornerback.
"I'm the type of player that does anything for my team to win," said Davis.
Davis's ability to play different positions gives the JMU defense flexibility to defend both the run and the pass.
"I think he's a guy that brings a lot of things to the defense," said JMU defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman. "I think he plays fast. He plays physical. He can apply pressure and I think he can cover."
A Virginia native, Davis was a prep star at Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk. He was the Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year in 2015 and earned 35 scholarship offers to play college football. Davis signed with FBS powerhouse Ohio State and spent two years with the Buckeyes before transferring to JMU.
Davis said being closer to family factored into his decision to move to Harrisonburg. He joined the Dukes prior to the 2018 season and quickly became a starter on defense. He registered 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and picked off two passes last fall.
"It was great," said Davis. "It was a great atmosphere. My teammates, they welcomed me like any other team would. It was just great for me....got my confidence back a little bit so I can just go out there and make plays this year."
When Davis puts on his jersey, ties his cleats, and buckles his chinstrap, he does so with his parents on his mind.
"My mother, she actually got me into playing football when I was a young age," said Davis.
It's his mother, Wanda Haskins, who is Davis' inspiration on the football field. She died when her son was young.
"After she passed away, that really motivated me to continue playing football," said Davis.
But the tragedy in Davis' life doesn't end with the death of his mother. His father, Wayne Davis Sr., also passed away when the younger Wayne was still just a boy.
"A lady had killed my dad. I found that out when I got a little older," said Davis.
With both parents gone at a young age, Davis was raised by his grandmother Maureen Haskins. But she, too, faced challenges when Davis was a young adult.
"My 8th grade to 9th grade year, she had got diagnosed with breast cancer," said Davis. "That was like another step back in my life that motivated me to do better. Some people might see me wearing pink sometimes...but she beat breast cancer so I am thankful for that."
The adversity Davis faced at a young age could've derailed his life but Davis was determined to achieve his dreams.
"You gotta goal and you set your mind to it," said Davis. "I had every excuse in the book to turn to the streets or to fail but I used that as my motivation."
Davis has started every game for the Dukes in 2019 and has 13 total tackles to go along with three tackles for loss through the first five games of the season. As Davis tries to help JMU win a FCS national title, he does it while playing with his parents on his mind and in his heart.
"Every night I pray to them and I just use them as my motivation to keep going," said Davis. "Every time I think about quitting, I just think about what they would want me to do."