JOPLIN, Mo. – Former Joplin High School running back Isaiah Davis dealt with some adversity in his sophomore season at South Dakota State – missing eight games due to injury.
“I’m trying to let my shoulder heal and take a break,” Davis says, “But I’m just so eager to get out there and do it again.”
Despite missing time with injury, Davis still managed to put up impressive numbers for the Jackrabbits this season.
The former Eagle played in 7 games for SDSU, rushing for 709 yards and 7 touchdowns on 95 carries. His 7.4 yards-per-carry led the team this fall.
He helped the Jackrabbits match a program record with 11 wins this season, and had one of his biggest games when it mattered the most – rushing for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns in the national quarterfinals against Villanova.
“From a team standpoint, we didn’t get where we wanted to go. Our goal was to win it all, not just to get there, and we fell short in the semifinals,” Davis says, “We took a big step forward. Our 21 seniors that left us did a great job in building the starting blocks, so I’m looking forward to next year.”
One of those seniors leaving the team is starting running back Pierre Strong, Jr.
Strong was the team’s leading rusher with 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. He declared for the NFL Draft following the end of the season, leaving the door open for Davis to take on a much bigger role with South Dakota State next year as a junior.
“I feel like these last two years have been a good jump start,” Davis says, “When the time comes for me to take over, I’m going to do the best I can. Hopefully this next season I can step up and be a leader on the team. That’s one of my goals, to a be a leader on this team.”
Strong leaves behind the starting running back job at SDSU – but he also leaves behind the number 20, which Davis wore when he played at Joplin High School.
“I’m going to stay with number 22,” Davis says with a laugh when asked if he will switch back to 20, “I’ve been in that number for two years. I feel like if I go back to 20, people will feel like I’m copying Pierre even though I’ve been 20 my whole life. Deuce-deuce just came to me, so I’m going to stay with it.”
Davis has racked up 1,527 yards and 17 touchdowns in just 17 games in his first two seasons playing for South Dakota State, including some big time highlight-reel touchdown runs.
He says the game is starting to come easier for him from a mental standpoint, and he’s ready to show it in his junior year.
“Last year I was working on learning the offense. This year I asked more questions about other positions and stuff like that, trying to learn concepts and have a deeper understanding of the game,” Davis says, “Next year, having that confidence will definitely help. The big step for me next season will be leadership. I’m going to be leading the running back room with coach Crenshaw. I’m looking forward to it. We lost a lot of guys that had big roles. Filling those spots will be important to the success we have next year.”
While his focus is on being the best he can be at SDSU – his end goal of making the NFL is still the same.
“I feel like that’s the end goal. I’ve been working my whole life to get there,” Davis finishes, “I’m not going to give up on that.”
Davis was the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior for Joplin in 2019. He rushed for 2,283 yards and 45 touchdowns, helping the Eagles finish as the Missouri Class 6 state runner-up. He was a 2X All-State selection, including a 1st team All-State pick as a senior.
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