Former Wildcat Davis gets first taste of NFL

Blue Springs grad happy to experience first pro snaps with Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's win over Dallas

By Bill Althaus

When he was a student at Blue Springs High School, Carlos Davis would walk past the trophy case in the commons area and look at all the jerseys former Wildcats had donated after reaching the professional level of their respective sports.

Carlos Davis

“Back then I dreamed about having one of my jerseys in that case,” Davis said Tuesday morning after playing a key role in Pittsburgh’s 24-19 victory at Dallas this past Sunday. The win helped the Steelers maintain a perfect 8-0 record.

“I finally got to play last Sunday, and it was a meaningful game, a game that helped us stay unbeaten, and I’m going to sign that jersey and send it to the high school. I already called Coach D to see how I should go about it.”

“Coach D” is Kelly Donohoe, the former Wildcats coach who led the Wildcats to back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013. Carlos, his twin brother Khalil (Tampa Bay), Darrius Shepherd (Green Bay) and Elijah Lee (Cleveland) were all members of those two title teams and now play in the NFL.

“I got the call from Carlos and it was such a thrill to talk to him after his first big game in the NFL,” said Donohoe, who retired from Blue Springs after 20 years and 191 wins and is now the head football coach at Rockhurst High School.

“He’s going to send us his game jersey. Isn’t that cool? He makes a couple of big tackles, helps the Steelers win that big game in Dallas and is thinking about his high school. That’s what makes him such a special young man.”

He didn’t tell his mother and father, Tracy and Carl, about his debut because he wanted to surprise them. But they watched the game from their home in Blue Springs and they were the first people Carlos called after the big win.

However, Davis’ NFL debut came with his sister Monique and his girlfriend Jade in the stands at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

“They were there, but I didn’t get to see them because of COVID restrictions,” Davis said. “In fact, I didn’t see my girlfriend until she flew back to Pittsburgh from Dallas.”

When asked if he brought home a memento from his first NFL start, he quipped, “Jade picked up a souvenir cup for me. That’s all I need. I got the memories, and they will last a lifetime.’

Early last week, the Steelers coaching staff told the former Wildcat and University of Nebraska nose tackle that he would get some snaps at Dallas.

“Football is my job now,” Davis said. “I’ve been playing as long as I can remember – little league, high school, college and now, with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I like saying that – the PITTSBURGH STEELERS.

“All week I had trouble sleeping and didn’t eat a whole lot. I’m a seventh-round draft pick and how many seventh-round draft picks have the chance to play in the NFL? I wanted to make an impression, I wanted to make my teammates and my coaches proud.”

And he did.

Davis had two tackles for losses and was on the field when a Steelers defensive stand secured the win.

“I kept looking at the sidelines, thinking I would come off the field and the coaches were waving at me ‘Stay on! Stay on!’ Man, that was a great feeling,” added Davis, who was named the Class 6 Missouri Defensive Player of the Year and won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top lineman or linebacker in the metro area for Blue Springs in 2014. “For the first time this year, I felt like a real member of the team.

“I mean, I’ve always been a part of the team, and traveled with the team. But Sunday, I felt like a real part of the team, and that’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

He said after the game many of his teammates and coaches congratulated him on his performance, which made for a special flight back to Pittsburgh.

“I felt so good, like a real NFL player, a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers family,” Davis said. “And it felt better than I could ever imagine.”