South Central's 12th Man: Davis continues to coach junior high football after son's death
Time does not heal all wounds.
Brett Davis can attest to that.
Nearly a year removed from the sudden, unexpected loss of his seventh grade son 'Bub,' the pain is not diminished and the void is not filled.
"It does seem like yesterday," Davis said. "It was November fourth when we transferred him to the hospital and November sixth when we made the decision to remove the machines. His sister (Izzy) turned 18 the day after. It's been a long, hard year. What my wife (Erin) and I have had to endure, there's never any amount of time that will heal that wound. There's always a song, you always see something, anything, that reopens the wound. You just go forward. Every day, I wake up, put on a smile -- sometimes it may be fake -- continue to go to work to support my family."
For Davis, much of the strength to soldier on comes from his wife, his parents, his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law, as well as some close friends. Through their backing, he was able to channel his energies by continuing to coach junior high football at South Central this season.
"Does it get easier? Hell no," he said. "But I'm 100 percent glad I did. As I told the kids daily, you saved my life, you really did. You can shut the curtains and hide, lose yourself in a bottle of booze. I wanted to continue, to go forward with the season."
Not that the decision was easy. Far from it. Davis remembers the drive home from the hospital and Erin asking him if he was going to coach again.
"I told her, I don't know if I can," he said. "We discussed it, discussed it, discussed it. I'd be, I don't know if I'm going to do it, then I'm going to do it, then I don't know if I'm going to do it. She and the family have been my biggest supporters the whole time with football."
During that time, Davis heard from La Porte wrestling and assistant coach Louie Kuzdas, who he had coached wrestling with for 11 years, in addition to Boston Middle School football, after coming out of the military in 1996.
"He sent me a picture of all the boys' (wrestling) shoes arranged on the mat in 56," Davis said of 'Bub's number.
A former La Porte wrestler, Billy Naegele, who's a Green Beret, also reached out to Davis, encouraging him to stay with coaching.
"He was like a son back in the day," Davis said. "He basically told me, don't be a selfish (expletive)."
So Davis, who got out of coaching for a period after 'Bub' was born in 2006, came back for his fourth year at S.C., which would have been his third and final season at the junior high level. After a year on Buzz Schoff's varsity staff, he took the junior high position in 'Bub's sixth grade year.
"He was kind of clumsy when he started, but he really grew into his body," Davis said. "When football was over, he wanted to lift all winter. I was like, right on!"
The plan was to move up to the high school team with 'Bub', coach for his four years, and then 'hang up my whistle' when he and his class graduated.
"The most important thing with the kids is moving forward, keep their minds occupied," Davis said. "They lost one of their teammates, their best friend. 'Bub' was a kid everybody wanted to be around. He never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He's a kid who if he knocked someone over, he would help him back up. I would tell him, quit doing that! Kids are so impressionable at that age. I think the junior high level is where you feel the most appreciated. You can get them to run through a brick wall for you. You see that competitive fire in their eyes, I absolutely love that."
S.C. finished the COVID-abbreviated season last week with a 3-2 record.
Colton 'Bub' Davis, a South Central Junior
High football player, died unexpectedly Nov.
6, 2019. His dad Brett decided to continue to
coach the team this season, and is glad he did.
"We started a weight program last winter," Davis said. "We had a lot of kids up there. I was more afraid we wouldn't have a season. I was fortunate to have the kids stick with it and come out. One thing I stress is it's a brotherhood. I tell them all the time, if one kid's gonna talk bad about another kid, you might as well hang up your spikes. The year I did it with (John) Haggard, we didn't win a game and we scored once. As we started to win, more kids came out. They gravitate to the sport. I had two kids come out who had never played before. They want represent their buddy, and at the same time, get together, meet up, and learn more about football."
Prior to the season opener with River Forest, Davis recalls almost not being able to leave the locker room and go out to the field.
"That game was probably the hardest," he said. "We'd only had two weeks of practice. They beat us in the last minute, 13 (seconds) last year, so the boys were fired up, ready to play. I gave the pre-game speech, the boys went out on the field. I sat in the locker room and looked at (assistant coach) Jimmy Carr and said, I don't know if I can do this. He said, they need you. It took me a couple minutes, but I made it."
During the pre-game, River Forest coach Glenn Gulley, a friend and hunting buddy, came up to Davis and asked him to have a couple minutes to speak to his team.
"After the kickoff, the first play of the game, everybody took a knee," Davis said. "I look around like, what the hell is going on? Then the quarterback came over and presented a flag to me, with a picture of me and my son. We hugged, he said, I'm so sorry, coach. It was absolutely awesome. The support I got from River Forest was unbelievable. I said thanks, but I'd appreciate if we could play some freakin' football now."
The Satellites won 32-13. The following week, after an 18-12 victory over Wheeler, Davis was presented with bracelets honoring 'Bub.'
"It's amazing how people came together to support us," he said.
All football jerseys in the program featured a patch with a 56 sewn into them. The junior high squad also entered the field before each contest with a flag displaying 'Bub's number. Every game, Erin and family were in the bleachers, as if 'Bub' was still out on the grass.
In a way, Davis believes he was.
"We definitely had a 12th man with us this season," he said.
South Central's football teams commemorated teammate 'Bub' Davis with a 56 patch on their jerseys this season. The junior high team carried a flag bearing his number onto the field each game. The team is coached by Davis' dad, Brett.