Kalvin Davis was among 167 college football players from across the nation to be nominated for the William V. Campbell Trophy, the National Football Foundation’s scholar-athlete award. The senior linebacker’s original plan, however, did not include playing football at Azusa Pacific.
“I really wasn’t looking into football,” Davis said. “I wanted to actually finish school and get a degree and say that I did something with my life.”
That changed upon meeting head coach Victor Santa Cruz at the university’s new student orientation.
“He looked like a football player,” Santa Cruz said. It turns out his suspicions were correct.
A varsity football player in high school, Davis recalls getting interest from programs at Arizona State University and University of Minnesota. These, however, did not further develop due to Davis’ lack of knowledge regarding the process of becoming a college athlete.
After some time off following his 2008 graduation from Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, California, Davis returned to play at San Bernardino Valley College.
He left after two seasons at the junior college, hoping to walk on at the University of Oregon. The senior spent eight months attending the university and practicing on his own, but returned home to be with his family.
Davis is the legal caretaker for his aunt, who is battling stage 3 stomach cancer.
“She took care of me when I was younger and now I am returning the favor,” he said. “I would do anything and everything for her.”
In addition to his responsibilities at home, the applied exercise science major maintains a full class load. He balances school, family, friends and football by staying focused and compartmentalizing.
“When I am at school, I deal with school and that is it,” Davis said. “When I deal with football, that is it. When I deal with my family, that is it. I try to stay on top of my duties and try to give myself to other people as well.”
Davis said his faith also helps him find a balance in his life.
“There’s a verse in the Bible that says God wouldn’t give you too much to handle,” Davis said. “So whatever I have on my plate is a blessing. Whatever I have, I deal with it the best way that I can and I try not to stress about it.”
After an unstable childhood of moving from house to house with different family members, Davis eventually moved out on his own at 17, following his twin brother Keith, who had left two years before. Since then, Davis has supported himself and contributes financially to his family, including his aunt.
“I’ve had to pick myself [up] and realize there’s going to be doubters all throughout your life, but it’s whether you actually believe in yourself,” Davis said. “Once I tell myself that, I believe in myself and I know I can accomplish anything.”
Davis maintains strong relationships with his twin brother and describes his family as having utmost importance in his life.
“He comes to watch all my home games, and people ask me who do I play for and I tell them my brother,” Davis said. “It makes me tear up every time I see him in the stands, but it’s tears of joy. He inspires me to keep going, to keep pushing. He says once you get to your endpoint, there’s something there waiting for you. He always reminds me to stay on course.”
Additionally, Davis plays alongside half-brother Tyree, a sophomore cornerback for the Cougars. The linebacker describes this sibling as the most inspiring person in his life because of his “passion for the game.”
The admiration is mutual. “We are best friends, and he is part of the reason why I am here at APU,” Tyree Davis said. “He supported me and explained how Azusa Pacific makes you a better person.”
Now in his second and final season with the Cougars, Kalvin Davis expresses a strong gratitude to Santa Cruz for the initial opportunity to play.
Davis has earned the coach’s respect. “Kalvin is definitely a leader,” Santa Cruz said. “He is a humble leader by action instead of words.”
The Campbell Trophy nominee said he hopes to finish his education at Azusa Pacific this year after growing as a player, student and person.
“I am so glad I play for this team and for these coaches,” he said. “These coaches care about you. They care about your life. APU has improved me as a person and as a player.”