New Jets wideout Corey Davis has traveled an interesting and at times rough road from childhood poverty in the Chicago area to an unrestricted free agency megadeal that he just signed with the Green & White. Here are five stops on the Davis highway that Green & White fans may not have been familiar with.
The Hardscrabble Years
Davis is the second youngest of seven children who survived hardship, loneliness, days of "ditching school" and nights of a piece of toast or less for dinner during his upbringing in Wheaton, IL.
"It's ridiculous. I don't understand how I got through that," he told mlive.com in 2013. "It was definitely hard. I don't blame anyone. It helped make me who I am today. ... Me and my brothers have come so far. Most kids would not be where they are today if they went through what we did. We have to keep fighting."
The Grahams' Helping Hands
While he has always maintained a loving relationship with his parents, Olasheni Timson and Michelle Davis, he made the decision as a high school junior to move into the home of Dan and Robin Graham, who became his legal guardians.
Dan, Corey's' youth football coach, was an offensive lineman for Tampa Bay in the late Eighties. And Graham's son, Ryan, played youth and high school football with Davis before quarterbacking at Northern Illinois.
Davis struggled through his first three years of high school, so the Grahams hired a personal tutor for him so he could get his grades up and become eligible for an NCAA scholarship. His only FBS offer came from Western Michigan...
Record Book Assault
Davis went on to a stellar career at WMU. He was the leading freshman receiver in the country in 2013, and as a senior in 2016, he posted career highs with 97 receptions, 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and was named Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year. And he racked up a number of entries in the NCAA's FBS record book from his career at Western Michigan.
His 5,285 career receiving yards (on 332 catches) set the division record in 2016 that still stands today. His 27 games with 100 receiving yards also set the FBS career mark. He's one of just two receivers with three seasons of 1,400-plus receiving yards for his FBS career, joining Wyoming's Marcus Harris from 1993-96. And his 51 touchdown receptions from Zach Terrell for Western Michigan from 2013-16 equals the division record for most TD passes between the same receiver and QB set by Rice's Chase Clement and Jarrett Dillard from 2005-08.
Corey and Titus
Corey has a Jets connection through his late brother, Titus, who was signed to the Jets practice squad on Sept. 23, 2015, released a month later, then was re-signed to the Jets P-squad on Nov. 14 for 10 days before being released again. Corey and Titus were tight. One sign of that: They both wore uniform No. 84 in college and the pros.
Corey was rocked when Titus died of a rare form of cancer last November.
"It was heavy on my mind, every play," Corey said after playing for the Titans against the Colts four days after his brother passed away. "But I just kept thinking this is what he wanted me to do. He wouldn't want me to be sad and sulk and feel sorry for myself. I obviously miss him and wish he was here, but I know he's in a better place and that he was with me today."
Titus was a standout receiver at Central Michigan from 2011-14 who broke school records that were previously set by Antonio Brown.
A Story of Sweetness
Just as Robert Saleh, Davis' new head coach on the Jets, has a favorite saying in "All Gas, No Brakes," Davis also has a mantra that defines him: "Never Die Easy." If that sounds familiar, it may be because it was the title of Walter Payton's autobiography.
And it underscores Davis' connection with the Pro Football Hall of Fame RB. Davis was born in South Chicago, grew up in Wheaton, 25 miles outside Chi-town, and has listed the late, great Bear as his favorite athlete growing up.
And one can certainly speculate that Payton's iconic uniform number 34 was the inspiration for Corey's and Titus' preference for 84.