Emmett Davis moved to Maryland along with his family just before starting high school. His father and namesake had been hired as an assistant for the Navy men’s basketball program.
Davis blossomed into a standout football player at Broadneck High and spent four years listening to his father make recruiting phone calls. He heard coach Davis tell prospects the Naval Academy offered an elite education along with a guaranteed job after graduation.
Perhaps more impactful was meeting many of the players Davis recruited and coached during his first stint as a Navy assistant from 1986 to 1998. He stays in contact with those former midshipmen, many of whom have become business owners or corporate executives.
“Hearing about the academy from my dad and learning what a lot of the graduates go on to do in life is enlightening. You realize what an incredible opportunity this is,” the younger Davis said.
Davis starred in football and basketball at Broadneck, serving as captain of both teams as a senior. He was a two-year starter at quarterback and helped lead the Bruins to a region championship in 2015.
One of his best friends at Broadneck was Ali’i Niumatalolo, youngest child of the Navy football head coach. They attended many Navy football games together while in high school, which clearly influenced Davis.
“Going to games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and experiencing the atmosphere made a big impact on me,” he said. “I remember being at games and imagining myself down on the field being part of all the history and tradition of Navy football.”
Coach Ken Niumatalolo routinely attended Broadneck football games to support Ali’i, who now plays football at Utah. But he also watched Davis develop into a Division I prospect and recruited him.
“Kenny offered Emmett following the first game of his senior season and that was a great moment for him and the whole family,” the elder Davis said.
Several Patriot League and Ivy League schools subsequently recruited the younger Davis, who ultimately chose Navy because of his relationship with coach Niumatalolo.
“I wanted to play for coach Niumatalolo, a great man who truly loves his players,” Davis said. “I don’t think anyone cares about their players more than coach Niumat and that really resonated with me during the recruiting process.”
Young Emmett was born in Annapolis and spent just six months there because his father was hired as head coach at Colgate. He lived in Hamilton, New York for 13 years while the his father became the winningest coach in Colgate men’s basketball history.
The elder Davis, who returned as an assistant in 2015 and has now spent almost two decades working with student-athletes at the Naval Academy, knows well the difficulty of getting through the institution. No one is happy during plebe year and everyone struggles with the academic and military demands.
“I’ve had basketball players that didn’t make it through the academy for various reasons. I’ve seen others have a hard time here but persevere and graduate,” coach Davis said. “All the guys that made it are so happy they did. All the guys that didn’t always regret it. It’s an earned institution.”
To have a son on his way to becoming a Naval Academy graduate is “really hard to put into words,” the elder Davis said, because “I know how tough this place is. There are a lot of challenges, a lot of hard days. To have your son do it … literally brings tears to my eyes. Emmett did not have an easy road. He’s just a tough kid, both mentally and physically.”
Captain Derric Turner, who played basketball at Navy while the elder Davis was an assistant, helped his son navigate the first step. He was stationed at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, Rhode Island when the younger Davis attended and served as his sponsor.
During that mostly miserable 10 months, Davis could go to the Turner home on weekends for rest, relaxation and a home-cooked meal.
Of course, Davis was fortunate that home was 15 minutes away during his four years at the Naval Academy. Knowing his father worked on the yard was comforting.
“I think having me here was really helpful for Emmett. If he ever needed anything, he knew where I was,” said coach Davis, noting that he routinely went weeks without seeing his son.
Davis could go home on weekends to do laundry and talk through any frustrations with football or service academy life. “That family bond can definitely help you through the dark times at the academy,” he said.
Davis was among many quarterbacks on the junior varsity roster as a freshman and was often asked to play wide receiver in games due to a shortage of players at that position. That experience proved valuable when he was switched to wide receiver permanently prior to spring practice as a plebe.
It was a difficult transition. Wide receivers coach Mick Yokitis said Davis had trouble catching the ball and was constantly battling hamstring issues.
“It was a slow process for Emmett. He was limited a lot and we couldn’t get a good evaluation of his abilities that whole sophomore year,” Yokitis said. “I’ll admit, I had my doubts about whether he could play wide out. There was never a doubt in Emmett’s mind. He just kept coming to work.”
Davis was relegated to the scout team as a sophomore and a junior, spending practice preparing the Navy defense for games. He saw mop-up duty in blowouts of Holy Cross and East Carolina last season.
“You have all these hopes and dreams when you’re recruited, then you get here and get put on scout team. It’s a tough pill to swallow and a hard road,” Davis said. “You have to take pride in what you’re doing and believe it’s important.”
Davis started spending time in the training room undergoing what is known as “pre-hab,” getting treatments that helped prevent the nagging hamstring injuries. He worked hard in the weight room throughout junior year to get bigger and stronger.
Davis made an impression on the coaching staff during August training camp, making numerous catches and blocking with tenacity. Yokitis noticed the senior’s hands were improved and the increased strength made him a more effective blocker.
Davis made the depth chart coming out of training camp and has played each of the last six games as a member of the kickoff return unit. He was part of the wide receiver rotation Saturday versus Memphis and delivered a key downfield block on a long run by fullback Nelson Smith.
“That was Emmett’s first chance to play meaningful snaps at wide out in a game and he graded out fine,” Yokitis said. “I couldn’t be more excited for Emmett. He got an opportunity and took advantage of it. It shows other kids that if you keep working, good things will happen.”
Davis could easily have quit football but was determined to earn playing time as a senior. He didn’t want to disappoint Niumatalolo, who had taken a chance by recruiting the hometown product. He couldn’t let down all the teammates that had provided support over the years.
“I just stayed the course and kept working the way I always have. I stayed true to my core values of toughness and being coachable,” Davis said. “I was fortunate to have a good camp, make a couple plays and get the attention of the coaching staff.”
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Davis has received pilot as a service selection and will attend flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola. He joins a long list of Naval Academy graduates from Broadneck High that went Navy air, including women’s lacrosse player and 2020 graduate Kayla Harris.