SDSU’s Isaiah Davis makes himself a force of nature

After harrowing survival with family during the 2011 Joplin tornado the Jackrabbit senior and NFL hopeful is thriving
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 11:19 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Even on a clear day in Brookings, there’s a sound of thunder that follows Isaiah Davis when he carries a football.

Those trying to tackle him feel it.

“Yeah I love it! I love stiff arm too a little bit!” SDSU Senior Isaiah Davis says.

“He had a ball in his hands since he was probably three years old or younger.” Cedric Davis says.

“Ball might have been his first word!” Brandi Davis says.

Cedric and Brandi Davis are used to it since their youngest of five children has run like a man amongst boys since he was a boy.

“Just about every time he played we saw something that would make you think that.” Cedric says.

“Made some things shake! I used to play corner too. I used to be fast and a speed demon. But now I kinda got some size and weight on me so I gotta use that strength.” Isaiah says.

Football was far from the only sport he excelled at growing up in Joplin, Missouri, making May 22nd, 2011 a normal whirlwind day for nine-year old Isaiah and his family.

:”We had a baseball game that day.” Isaiah says.

“I noticed the clouds in the sky, just how big and puffy they were.” Brandi says.

Until it wasn’t.

“We got home, saw the trees kind of lean, and then everything kind of stopped. And then, next thing you know, I saw them lean to where you knew something was happening and, by the time I turned to go back into the house, you could hear kind of like a train, the walls rumbling, the floor rumbling, and then I knew.” Cedric says.

An EF5 tornado with winds of more than 200 miles per hour struck Joplin that day.

“I grabbed everybody and threw them in the hallway. The boys had bunk beds and I took one of the top bunks mattresses off and threw it on top of us.” Cedric says.

“We was under the mattresses just praying constantly and I didn’t know what to think. I’m just in the cradle position looking to my right at the wall being destroyed next to me with my mom, my dad, my brother and my two dogs. We were just praying and my dad kept screaming, praying that if it took anybody it would be him. So that just shows you the love for our family.” Isaiah says.

The Davis’ home was one of the nearly 4400 destroyed.

“Our whole house was gone. The little area that we were laying down under the mattress in in the hallway was the only really part standing up to the house.” Isaiah says.

It likely kept them from being among the 158 who lost their lives.

“I’ve always kind of thought out what would happen in a tornado because I would have hated if I would have froze up and it would have been a different story.” Cedric says.

With help from their insurance, friends and family the Davis’ stayed in Joplin.

“I was really shocked. A couple years after that, any time I heard rain or thunder, I was really thinking it was a tornado. When I go over that hump I think the biggest takeaway from that was just safety. Taking care of your family.” Isaiah says.

Isaiah would go on to lead their high school team to the state championship game and earn the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year award. Since becoming a Jackrabbit in 2021 he’s run for more than 3,000 yards, 33 touchdowns and become an FCS National Champion.

Though he has a year of COVID eligibility left, this will likely be Isaiah’s final year in Brookings as he aims to being selected in next year’s NFL draft.

“He was probably, I don’t know, five or six, both of the Manning brothers were playing at a Thursday night, and they were talking to their parents, and he (Isaiah) said that’s going to be you guys one day!” And I believe in him and I don’t think there’s anything going to be able to stop him.” Cedric says.

Touting severe weather awareness with the rest of his family, Davis no longer fears the sound of thunder.

“You know it’s still crazy even now just thinking about where I’m at and how I came about this journey. I’m going to take it one step at a time, see how it goes but, when that time comes to walk with my family, you know I’m going to embrace it and love them up with me!” Isaiah says.

And now Isaiah has worked to become a force of nature.