Davis hopes to 'open doors' for others into professional football

Apr. 26—There hasn't been a Joplin athlete selected in the NFL draft in 38 years. That was in 1986, when the St. Louis Cardinals chose Jeff Tupper in the fifth round.

Former standout at Joplin High School Isaiah Davis has the chance to be the first drafted player from JHS and to end the 38-year drought. He spoke Wednesday about his anticipation to hear his name called on Saturday specifically.

Saturday will be when the fourth-through-seventh rounds of the NFL draft will be held. Thursday began the event with Round 1 action and Friday held Rounds 2 and 3.

"Obviously it would be really special. One of my goals is to open doors for others. Hopefully if I can join them (previous Joplin players), I can also give inspiration for others who have a dream of going to the NFL," Davis said. "If a younger athlete thinks they can't make it to the NFL, hopefully I can open a door for them to see that it's possible for a kid from Joplin."

Tupper went on to play in seven NFL games after ending up with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played in three games for the Eagles and four the next season with the Denver Broncos before his career ended.

He was a defensive end at the University of Oklahoma after graduating from Parkwood High School in Joplin in 1981.

The only other player to be drafted from a Joplin public school was a 1973 ninth-round pick, Mike Reppond. He was selected by the Buffalo Bills in '73 and ended up playing in two games as a receiver for the Chicago Bears later that season. Reppond attended the University of Arkansas.

Mike Loyd — a Memorial High School graduate — did not get selected in the draft but eventually worked his way onto the St. Louis Cardinals' roster in 1980 and played in five games that year at the quarterback position. Loyd even got to start one game in place of injured quarterback Jim Hart.

Loyd was a graduate of Missouri Southern State University after first attending universities in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Andrew Lewis graduated from JHS, played at Oklahoma State as an offensive lineman and eventually signed a free-agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs but did not play in a game. Notie Pate was given a tryout for the Dallas Cowboys but also never played in a game.


Davis was able to rush for over 4,500 yards, 50 total touchdowns and 98.9 yards per game in his career as a Jackrabbit at South Dakota State.

He and the Jackrabbits won back-to-back FCS national championships in his last two seasons in the blue and yellow. He considers his time in Brookings, South Dakota, to be special.

"Obviously, it was special. Great to win two and go back-to-back," Davis said. "Most of us just wanted to do it for coach Rogers in his first year. He's a hell of a coach. It was good for him in his first year and also good to go out on top for us seniors."

Head coach Jimmy Rogers replaced longtime SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier. Davis and his teammates wanted to start coach Rogers the same way they sent Stiegelmeier into retirement.

It may have been special but Davis admitted to the second title not feeling quite the same as the first. The expectations for SDSU were much higher around the nation as a lot of analysts were favoring the Jackrabbits to go back-to-back in the 2023-24 season.

"To be honest with you, I didn't enjoy it as much. Because, that year we were supposed to win it," Davis admitted. "My junior year we weren't really picked to win it so we had to battle through some adversity and win some games we weren't expected to win."

The 22-year-old running back wants people to understand that the championship was more than just what the players did on the field. It required plenty of work behind the scenes to make that title run successful.

"It's a collective effort," he said of being able to win it again. "Everyone on staff, the players bought in, the strength coach, it all plays a part in our success. A lot of people's work goes unnoticed. Us athletes are seen working out but there's a lot of people on staff that have to do more than us."


Davis was a part of the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. Those are things he knows looking back were special opportunities but at the time his business-first mindset didn't allow him to soak it all in.

He talked about the free time he's had to prepare for the NFL draft from prepping for the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine and how he's had to make sure to use his time wisely.

"It was good to be there with all the top football players in the country," Davis said of the Senior Bowl. "I was blessed to get invited and be a part of something special. ... In all, it was a little stressful."

Davis said the days around the event were long as he started at 7 a.m. and wasn't done until 10 p.m.

At the combine he was strictly business. Davis admitted he wasn't there to take it all in and enjoy the moment.

"My approach for it was more for business. I wasn't there for the oohs and aahs. I wasn't there for the experience. I was there to prove myself," he said.

Davis was "relieved" after his 4.57 time on the 40-yard dash. That was the big result and he was happy with what he got.