Fans filled the stands. The band played the school song as the teams took to the hardwood to warm up. Butterflies filled the stomachs of players with anticipation, hoping to take that first step in accomplishing their collective goals. This scene played out in numerous gyms throughout the state this past weekend with the opening of another high school basketball season. Such was the setting at Brewer High School Friday night when the Brewer boys knocked off the three-time defending Eastern Maine champion Hampden Academy Broncos 43-38. The Witches had to wait an especially long time for their home opener. Brewer played their home games a year ago at the Cross Insurance Center while renovations were being done at their school.
When the Witches took the floor for their opener Friday night, they did so without one of their teammates, Danny Davis, in uniform. Davis could be found in a shirt and tie on the Brewer bench holding a clipboard. It certainly isn’t the scenario he or his teammates would have envisioned prior to tryouts some three weeks ago. Such has been the case for Danny throughout the entire preseason and will likely be so throughout the whole season.
Some weeks ago, the son of Burt and Jane Davis knew something was wrong. Following the football season, where Davis competes as a running back and kick returner, he experienced severe lack of strength on the whole left side of his body. He described the feeling as a lack of control. Danny was also sick to his stomach and disoriented. In describing these symptoms to his mother, they made a trip to the emergency room. Having found no diagnosis to the problem, he was sent home and made a follow-up appointment with his primary care physician. The doctor scheduled an MRI to be performed to try to get to the root of the issue. That evening the family received a call. It was a call that delivered some devastating news. A blood clot was found in Danny’s left cerebellum and he should report to the hospital immediately. Danny was suffering a stroke.
Imagine the shock of the diagnosis. Stokes are supposed to happen to those who are middle-aged and over, right? They just don’t occur in a physically fit sixteen year old who has barely an ounce of body fat on an athletic frame, do they?
Following the diagnosis, Danny spent the next two and a half days in the hospital undergoing treatment. In order to prevent further blood clots, Davis has had to endure injections of a blood thinning medication into the side of his abdomen every twelve hours. According to Davis, he will likely need these twice-daily injections for at least the next three months.
In speaking with Danny at the preseason Smokey Lawrence Tournament at the Cross Insurance Center, he was optimistic in getting back to action within a few weeks. While the blood thinner was alleviating the issue of clotting, the question remained as to what caused the clot in the first place. The answer came recently through more tests. Davis’ body was dealing with a deficiency in protein C, which keeps the blood from clotting.
Because of the new information, Danny’s potential return to action took a major turn for the worse and will likely cause him to miss the entire basketball season.
In speaking with Davis, there was no talk of why me or woe is me, nothing. So how does one cope with such life-altering circumstances? Danny points to the support he has received from teammates and the school community at large. When he was hospitalized he received signed cards from teammates and coaches alike. The visitors in and out of his room were numerous.
His teammates and coaches have nothing but high praise for Davis and admire how he has handled his current situation. Head coach Clayton Blood, who also is an English teacher at the school, was exuberant in his praise for Davis. In speaking about the Davis family as a whole he said they are one of the nicest families he has ever dealt with. Danny is a triplet with sister Meg and brother Reed. He also has a nineteen year old brother Joey, who is a student at the University of Maine. A student in Blood’s AP Language course, Davis is an excellent student. He is consistently on the high honor roll at Brewer High School. He is also involved in the Se Beowulf honors English society.
While Davis is not able to take the floor and participate in the high energy sport, he is still very much a part of the team. According to Coach Blood, many in Davis’ circumstance would take the easy road and walk away, not Danny. Davis has been to every team function thus far, attending every practice and game and is always the last person to leave each practice. Blood said he currently serves as the team statistician. According to Coach Blood, the commitment Danny has shown speaks to his character, integrity, and maturity. He went on to say Davis is a great leader and well thought of by students and staff alike. He always does the best he can at whatever he is doing.
Davis’ teammates were equally effusive in their praise. Junior guard Carter Smith spoke about what a great teammate Danny is. He said he gets the rest of the team pumped up to play and has been a great friend to everyone. He is a true motivator, leader, and role model. Through Danny’s ordeal the team has been inspired. They really go out and play for him, as well as play more together as a team.
Junior guard Logan Rogerson echoed many of Smith’s sentiments. He said Davis is always there to pick the team up, is there for them, and is just a natural leader. While Danny has been sidelined he has still been there to offer support in practice. According to Rogerson, he is really smart, funny, and he just makes everything better. Like the rest of his teammates, he really hopes to have Davis back playing.
This latest health issue alone would be more than enough for any high school student to deal with, however this isn’t the only brush Davis has had with adversity. He missed half his sophomore football season due to his fingernail being ripped off when getting caught in an opponent’s helmet. Surgery was required to graft a new nail.
About a year and a half ago, the Davis family felt devastation when their Dedham home burned. Nearly everything was lost in the fire. The tight knit Dedham community came together in support of the family and held a benefit dinner in their behalf at the Dedham School.
Danny Davis is a bit of a throwback, so to speak. The three-sport athlete plays football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. Davis is not involved in any outside elite club programs. The kid just loves to compete in whatever sport is in season.
Athletics has also served as a release for him when dealing with life’s adversity. In the wake of the fire, Davis said sports gave him something to do and helped to keep his mind off things. When he gets back to competition he vows to take advantage of every opportunity presented. He realizes how fleeting these opportunities are and how quickly they can be taken away.
In reading ESPN college basketball commentator Jay Bilas’ book entitled “Toughness”, Bilas clearly defines what toughness is and is not. Many think of someone being tough as one who can intimidate. Much false bravado in sports is mistaken for toughness. True toughness, as defined by Bilas, is not the absence of fear but the ability to persevere despite fear. I’m sure Danny Davis is dealing with the fear of his uncertain future. Through it all he has shown the resolve of what it truly means to be tough.
Bilas also states that one cannot be tough alone. Through the support of his family, coaches, teammates, and fellow students, Davis can find solace that he is supported in whatever his journey may find. Danny, you don’t really need to read Bilas’ book to know about toughness. You are the epitome of toughness, my friend.