“I talked to my [birth] mother, but at this stage in my life, I really don’t even . . .,” Davis added, his voice trailing off. “It is what it is.”
When Davis first arrived on Virginia Tech’s campus in July 2008 after a standout career as a quarterback at Ocean Lakes High, there were no other students around. He initially thought, “Man, I can’t do this.” On the field, he had to adjust to playing wide receiver, a move that seemed to be a natural fit considering his 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame, 4.49-second 40-yard dash and a 40.5-inch vertical jump.
But after redshirting as a freshman, he had to wait his turn behind record-setting wideouts Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale for three years. Despite showing glimpses of his talent, Davis sometimes chafed at the tough love he received from Virginia Tech’s coaches.
“I was trying to get home whenever I could,” Davis said. “I could not stand it.”
His ascension to a starting role this year hasn’t gone as smoothly as he hoped, either. Though Davis leads the Hokies with 38 catches for 754 yards and four touchdowns, he has had several key drops and questioned the leadership on this year’s team. This week, Davis became a symbol for Virginia Tech’s worst season in 20 years when a video of his poor blocking was featured on several national Web sites and blogs.
But Davis contends his brush with Internet infamy is just a blip on the radar screen.
“Obviously somebody was bored and they felt they could put up a video, but little did they know, they don’t know the half of it,” Davis said. “If that’s what they want to do with their free time, then I applaud them. Go ahead and do what you want. But at the end of the day, that’s not gonna define me. That’s not who I am.”
‘What is your angle?’
Davis says there’s little significance to the fact that he still goes by his birth mother’s last name. Before college he thought about changing it to Tann, but never got around to it. But his fame on the field in recent years has brought some unfamiliar faces into the picture.
Since Davis went to Virginia Tech, Wilford Tann said Michelle Davis has stopped by his Beautiful Street house three times. Lillian Tann noted the encounters have always been right after Marcus has visited from Blacksburg, and that Michelle hasn’t stayed long. Invariably, the short conversations would break down into three categories: “How’s Marcus? Where’s Marcus? Give Marcus my phone number.”
Marcus Davis has had no contact with her, but those who helped raise him worry about the situation because, despite his up-and-down college career, Davis’s physical gifts could make him an NFL draft pick, according to ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr.
“Now it feels like people are starting to come around because of who he is,” said Jeri McCants, Davis’s godmother, who helped him through the recruiting process. “But it’s like, ‘Where were you guys when his lights were getting cut off up at Blacksburg?’ He didn’t have money to eat because he was sending money back home to Virginia Beach. Not saying there’s anything wrong with it or anything, but where were you, this other family, for a lot of years? Half of them knew who he was and now you want to come around and [say], ‘Don’t forget your Davis side.’
“I just tell him: ‘I know who I am. I know my place.’ But I’m gonna still look at people. I would never tell you don’t see your mother or your father, but I’m gonna still be looking at them from the corner of my eye. What is your angle? What are you trying to get? I would never tell them, ‘No, you can’t be a part of his life.’ But I can understand why he’s like, ‘Don’t come now when you weren’t there then.’ ”
Davis doesn’t pay his birth mother’s entreaties much mind. He’s focused on salvaging a season that hasn’t gone as planned for Virginia Tech, which enters Saturday’s game at Boston College needing two wins simply to make a bowl game for a 20th consecutive season. But when the subject comes up, Wilford Tann likes to tell the story of how Marcus “picked us as his parents.”
One day, Wilford introduced himself to someone as Marcus’s godfather. But Marcus cut him off and quickly corrected Tann: “You ain’t my godfather. You’re my father.”
“And he said the same thing about his mother. He loves me as much as anybody loves me. I believe he do.”