After missing virtually the entire 2017 season, Sterlington senior Malik Davis is making the transition from tailback to fullback.
It's been a long road back, but things are looking up for Sterlington fullback Malik Davis going into his senior year.
Davis entered last season projected to share carries at tailback with C.J. Colvin. Those plans never materialized as Colvin went down for the season with a season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter of Week 1. Shortly afterward, Davis fractured his ankle as well. Though Davis came back to play sparingly in several games, he was never the same. Sterlington basically lost its projected top two tailbacks in
"At first, I was going to come back against OCS (in Week 2)," Davis said. "When the X-rays came back, the doctor said I would be out for 6-8 weeks. Watching the opening kickoff of the OCS game, the tears started to flow. That's when I realized I had been hurt and wasn't going to be able to play for a while.
"I started playing football when I was 6 years old, then all of a sudden, I couldn't play anymore. It was heartbreaking."
Colvin and Davis again figure prominently in the Panthers' offensive scheme, although Davis has since switched positions.
In his first action since the injury, Colvin showed out in Thursday's preseason scrimmage against Cedar Creek, amassing 177 yards and four touchdowns on six touches. Davis added six carries for 35 yards, including a 7-yard TD, along with a 12-yard reception.
Davis says both he and Colvin were anxious to line up against an opposing team.
"Me and C.J. were talking before the game about how we were tired of going against each other," Davis said. "We were ready to play against somebody other than our teammates."
Neither Davis nor Colvin showed any signs of favoring their ankle during the outing.
"I'm 100 percent and C.J. is 100 percent," Davis said.
With both healthy, the backfield is one of the Panthers' deepest positions.
"C.J. and Dallas (Reagor) ran the ball well and Zach Crain made some good plays," Davis said after the scrimmage. "We also have Idris (Enoch) and some freshmen who can run the ball. If we keep this up, I think we have a chance to have a great season."
Davis was quick to point out that the running backs weren't the only ones doing the work after the Panthers rushed for 383 yards on 32 carries in the scrimmage.
"Our offensive line was fantastic," Davis said. "They made a few mistakes, but it's coachable. They're all hard workers."
Davis acknowledges that he has some mistakes of his own to correct. Otherwise, his numbers may have rivaled Colvin's.
"Coach said after the scrimmage that I could have had three 50-yard touchdowns if I would have gotten my knees up," Davis said. "Once I watched the film, I could see it. They kept making shoe lace tackles on me because I wasn't getting my knees up. This week, I have been working on picking my knees up in practice."
Davis says the flaw was a matter of adapting to a new position rather than subconsciously protecting his ankle.
"I'm not used to running out of a 3-point stance," Davis said. "At tailback, you're usually coming downhill."
As part of his transitional efforts, Davis has been studying footage of a former Sterlington fullback and teammate.
"I've been watching Tyler Muse highlights to see how he fired off the ball," Davis said. "He fired off the ball really quickly."
Muse, who is entering his sophomore season at Millsaps (Miss.) College, is a good one to watch. As a senior in 2016, he rushed for 1,090 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Now that he has had time to adapt, Davis is starting to find his comfort zone at fullback.
"Fullback's been an adjustment, but I like blocking and helping my teammates score touchdowns," Davis said. "I want to be the best fullback I can be to help my team."
Davis' ankle injury delayed his debut in another sport.
"I've been looking at boxing and some MMA," Davis said. "I've been training with Sparky McDuffie and my uncle, Chris Benson, since I was in the eighth grade. I actually stopped running track last year to box, but my ankle wasn't really healthy."
Though his boxing was limited to sparring sessions rather than a sanctioned fight, the benefits of the training carried over into football.
"Boxing helped me because I had to condition a lot," Davis said. "For boxing, you have to run and stay in shape."
When summer arrived, Davis again put his boxing aspirations on hold to focus on football. Besides attending the Panthers' summer strength and conditioning sessions, he attended camps at Northwestern State, Louisiana Tech and Millsaps.
"After football season, I am going to make my ring debut," Davis said.
Davis, however, isn't planning on giving up football any time soon. In fact, he recently received his first offer from Cornell College (Iowa), and other schools have expressed interest.
Coming back from a major injury is never easy, but Davis' persistence is starting to pay off.