Julius Davis is being honest when he says he was unsure entering his junior season whether he would earn any college football scholarship offers. He had rushed for 397 yards with 3 touchdowns the previous year as a sophomore. Those weren’t exactly numbers that screamed “look at me” to potential recruiters.
Still, Davis understood what might be possible with him serving as the featured running back for Menomonee Falls (Wis.) High School. A string of solid games could change everything.
“I kind of wanted to stay humble,” Davis told Land of 10. “I knew I was blessed with talent, but I didn’t want to go around acting like, ‘Yeah, I know I’m going to get scholarships.’ I just knew that my junior year had to be a really good year for colleges to look at me.”
Davis produced a fantastic season in which he carried 257 times for 1,762 yards — an average of 6.8 yards per carry — and 17 touchdowns. His combination of brute force, speed and athleticism shined while playing in the Greater Metro Conference, which is considered among the top football conferences in Wisconsin.
On Oct. 22, Davis received his first scholarship offer from Buffalo. He took unofficial visits on consecutive November weekends to Iowa and Iowa State. Then came the moment he had waited on for years. While on an unofficial visit to watch Wisconsin play Michigan at Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 18, he earned a scholarship offer from the Badgers. Three days later, he committed to Wisconsin as a member of the Badgers’ 2019 recruiting class.
“When they told me, it was overwhelming because that’s my dream school,” Davis said. “So when they offered me, I was happy and couldn’t wait to tell my parents.”
Davis said he knew instantly that he wanted to play for Wisconsin. He took a short time to discuss the matter with family, but they required little convincing.
“I was hoping that they did take notice of him,” said Davis’ father, Dornaj Davis. “I heard a lot of rumors that the Badgers usually take a little while. I just wanted him to be able to play D-I and be able to get a scholarship. But Wisconsin is one of the places that the tradition is really good and the school system is really good, and that was my main focus, was to make sure he got a great education.”
Wisconsin rarely offers in-state scholarships to running backs with the intention of keeping them at the position. In recent seasons, Wisconsin has taken tailback commitments from Texas, New Jersey, Alabama, Illinois, Maryland and South Carolina.
But Davis clearly is different. He is ranked as the No. 1 player in Wisconsin for the 2019 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. Menomonee Falls football coach Dan Lutz said that when Badgers running backs coach John Settle turned on the tape, he saw a tailback every bit as good as others the program typically recruits. Settle relayed that information to special teams coordinator Chris Haering, who served as Davis’ lead recruiter.
“On certain plays, he can knock four or five guys over,” Lutz said. “He knows how to get behind his pads. That’s another thing that he’s really unique with. He gets behind his pads and he’ll run you right over. There’s times I wish he wouldn’t do it. When there’s 10 guys there, you need to learn to fight another day. He doesn’t, though. He’s never played one play less than 110 percent. That’s the type of kid he is.”
Davis, who is 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, described himself as “a very physical back” that needed to work on juking moves to avoid absorbing so much contact when he reaches the college level. But Lutz said his star tailback had no problem demonstrating his shiftiness and jump-cutting ability on the field this past season, when Davis averaged 176.2 yards per game.
He ran for more than 200 yards on five separate occasions. The only two games in which Davis did not eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark came against Brookfield East, which finished as the Division 2 state runner-up.
“I haven’t had anybody quite like him,” Lutz said. “When I look at the college game, he kind of reminds me of a younger Saquon Barkley with the way he runs and as athletic as he is and the type of cuts that he can do. That’s the first thing I thought of watching college was, ‘Oh, he kind of reminds me of Julius a little bit.’ Julius doesn’t quite have his speed yet, obviously. But everything else about him, he’s kind of a similar back.”
For a good example of Davis’ extraordinary skill set, all anyone must do is pull up the YouTube video that made him an Internet sensation. During a game Aug. 25 against West Allis Hale, he took a handoff, jetted up the middle and then hurdled a defender with a 360-degree spin move. But Davis wasn’t even close to being done.
He managed to maintain his balance and escape three tacklers before bolting down the left sideline for a stunning 67-yard touchdown run — one of 4 scores he produced in the game.
“That actually got him attention,” Lutz said. “I’d say in the next week I got a call from Northern Illinois. I started getting calls from programs. I knew when that happened, this offseason was going to be really busy for him. I didn’t know Wisconsin was going to offer, and he was going to commit. And if he didn’t, it would be crazy. That did get him a lot of notoriety, and a lot of big-time programs noticed that.”
Davis said he didn’t realize exactly what he had accomplished until after he reached the sideline and talked to teammates. He showed up to school the following Monday and noticed his cell phone blowing up with social media mentions and interview requests. Whenever he would meet new people, his friends would pull up the YouTube video as a means of introducing him.
Davis has taken the attention in stride. He worked on his craft when no one was calling, and he’ll continue to do so during his senior season as a Wisconsin commit.
“Especially after the video that went viral, that changed a lot of people’s game plans and everything trying to stop me,” Davis said. “But I think for sure there’s going to be a way bigger target on me this year.”
Julius Davis’ game-by-game stats
|Aug. 18||at Germantown||L 21-28||32||247||3|
|Aug. 25||West Allis Hale||W 49-7||13||172||4|
|Sept. 1||at Wauwatosa West||W 20-18||32||229||1|
|Sept. 8||Marquette University||L 16-17||39||220||2|
|Sept. 15||at Brookfield East||L 0-35||22||66||0|
|Sept. 22||Sussex Hamilton||W 34-14||21||203||4|
|Sept. 29||at Kettle Moraine||L 0-42||22||197||0|
|Oct. 6||at Wauwatosa East||W 24-0||27||202||2|
|Oct. 13||Brookfield Central||L 20-7||26||138||1|
|Oct. 20||at Brookfield East||L 0-35||23||88||0|