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Jeilani Davis

Utah DB Jeilani Davis left mark at Mater Dei

Jeilani Davis is a finalist for the NFL Latino Youth Honors

Jeilani Davis understands the importance of family. When the star defensive back is not training on the football field, he is focused on being a role model to his siblings and teammates. 

Davis excels in the classroom, on the gridiron and in the community. He’s one of the most accomplished Latino high school football players in America. The Inglewood, Calif., native is a finalist for the NFL Latino Youth Honors, which is given to tackle or flag football athletes for their academic and athletic excellence. 

He is one of eight Latino high schoolers who are finalists for the award. The NFL will announce the winner during Super Bowl weekend

Davis,18, has Mexican and Puerto Rican roots from his mother. His football journey seemed all but over before it even took off. In the eighth grade, Davis tore his ACL on his right knee. Through rehabilitation and determination, he was ready for his freshman year at national powerhouse Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. 

Davis suffered another setback, though. He tore the same ACL again during his freshman year. A meniscus tear accompanied that injury. Devastated, Davis tried to overcome the physical and emotional toll that comes with rehabbing. 

Although his journey seemed at a dead end, Davis’ family was fundamental in guiding him through the challenges. 

“It was a rough two years for me,” Davis said. “Without them I don’t think it would be possible. They kept me up, put me on their shoulders, and made sure I never doubted myself.”

Jeilani Davis credits family, teammates for support

Davis’ family’s wise words were well-versed. The 6-foot-1 standout overcame his injuries and took over the starting role at nationally ranked Mater Dei. A critical piece for his successful return after dealing with his injury was staying connected with his team and coaches. While he rehabbed, Davis was constantly with the team. 

Once healthy, Davis won the coaches’ award during his sophomore and junior year. He was safety of the year in his final year. Davis was also named Second-Team All-Defense for the Trinity League, which is arguably the toughest football league in America. The 3-star recruit was rated as one of the Top-20 defensive backs in the country for the Class of 2024. 

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Davis’ leadership abilities also stand out. Being a strong example for his siblings is pivotal for Davis’ development as a football player and as a person. He is adamant that his motivation to succeed is derived from teaching his little brother – who strives to be like Jeilani Davis – to be a responsible citizen inside and outside the gridiron. 

However, his leadership role goes beyond his family. His mother Phenice Hurtado recalls conversations with parents and former teammates telling her how impactful her son has been to teammates and classmates.  

“The biggest thing that has stood out about Jeilani is actually not football related,” Hurtado said. “He brings this leadership role. I have had parents in high school approach me. I’ve had trainers in high school approach me and say he’s just a great human being.”

Jeilani Davis recognizes others

Winning the NFL Latino Youth Honor award would be a great achievement. That recognition would mean a great deal to Davis. He is certain that this nomination puts a staple on his hard work and dedication he has exemplified during high school.

Nonetheless, he wants others to know that he is not only representing himself.

“I may be in the limelight,” he says. “However I am not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for everybody who doesn’t get that recognition.”  

Davis also proudly represents all the other athletes who have shown the same will. 

“It’s a big deal for me,” Davis said of his nomination. “There’s a lot of athletes across the country that put in the work.

“I do it for the people who don’t get that recognition and for my family. I really enjoy putting smiles on other people’s faces, letting them know their hard work is not going unnoticed.

This selflessness highlights the reason for his nomination. His goal doesn’t stop there. Davis, who has already enrolled at Utah, hopes to win the Jim Thorpe Award in college. He dreams of having a successful NFL career. With his family at the forefront, Davis is confident that he can achieve anything. 

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