- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

YUKON, Okla. (AP) - Blake Davis didn’t do any offseason football workouts at Yukon High this summer. Didn’t lift any weights. Didn’t run any sprints. Didn’t study any plays.

But talk to teammates and coaches, and they’ll tell you that he does everything he’s supposed to do, that no one works harder, that he is a leader.

So, why didn’t he do summer workouts?

The answer is basic.

Basic training, that is. After joining the National Guard and enlisting in the Army earlier this year, Davis spent 10 weeks this summer being indoctrinated into the military lifestyle. He was pushed physically. He was tested mentally. He was stretched to the limit in every way possible.

And he loved it.

Basic training was the latest step in realizing a lifelong dream, The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/1UVIg2w ) reported.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the military,” Davis said, “and I’ve always wanted to be a pilot.”

Still, Davis had no way of knowing how much basic training would change him. He’s not the same person now.

Not the same football player, either.

___

Blake Davis has been around flying machines since Day 1.

That’s not some sort of hyperbole; he was born at the hospital on Tinker Air Force Base. His grandparents worked on base, and they were always telling stories about flying or offering to drive little Blake around the base to watch the planes.

One day at Tinker, he saw a plane bigger than any he’d remembered. He was awed. Inspired, too.

“That’s what I want to do,” he decided.

He was only 4 years old.

Still, his youthful declaration held. He soaked up as much information about the military and aviation as possible. He read books. He watched documentaries. Everything was geared toward his goal.

Ryan Andraszek, now Davis’ best buddy, remembers going to Davis’ house for the first time in middle school and seeing a giant poster of a helicopter. It wasn’t something he saw at other friends’ houses.

“What’s this?” Andraszek asked.

“I’ve always wanted to be an aviation pilot,” Davis explained.

Andraszek shook his head.

“You’re crazy,” he said.

Davis never wavered. Last year as a junior when he had the opportunity to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery - ASVAB for short - he studied as much as possible. The results determine not only if you’re allowed to enlist but also if you’re qualified for certain specialties.

Score well on the ASVAB, and it would increase Davis’ chances of flying one day.

After taking the test, he felt like he’d done well.

“But when they started offering me jobs,” Davis said of the military recruiters who contacted him after getting his test results, “I was surprised at the kind of stuff they were offering.”

First up: cryptologic linguist.

Crypto what?

“Yeah,” Davis said, smiling, and then explaining that the job involves listening to audio transmissions, then translating, decrypting and analyzing them.

It sounded interesting. So did many of the opportunities mentioned by recruiters, but he chose the Army’s offer to become an aircraft mechanic. He would be able to eat, sleep and breathe helicopters. And when the time came to apply for flight school, he’d have quite the background and experience.

His dream seemed so much closer.

Then, someone suggested he could go ahead and enlist, do basic training the summer before his senior year and put himself ahead in his military career.

Blake Davis didn’t have to think twice.

___

Having joined the National Guard as a 17-year-old, Davis had a sense of what basic training might be like. Attending training every month, he’d gone through some of the drills and heard stories from some of the guardsmen.

It couldn’t prepare him completely for 10 weeks of basic training at Fort Sill in Lawton.

“But it definitely helped out when I got there,” he said. “It wasn’t a big culture shock.”

Still, the challenges were many.

Even though Davis wasn’t doing Yukon football’s summer program, he was pushed to the limit physically. He didn’t touch a weight or do a sprint, but there were hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups and lots of running.

Lots and lots of running.

“Now, I might not be the fastest person,” he said, smiling, “but I can run forever.”

Despite all the physical challenges, Davis said what stretched him most was mental. Listening to superiors who’d been deployed. Hearing about experiences they’d endured. He tried to wrap his mind around the struggles, the horrors and the difficulties faced by many in the military.

It changed the way Davis thought about lots of things.

Having a cell phone.

Being around people.

Getting to play football.

“You definitely learn,” he said, “how much you take things for granted.”

___

Only a few days after returning home from basic training, Blake Davis started football practice. There have been rough patches along the way. Remembering plays. Recognizing formations.

After all, the lanky defensive end couldn’t have his playbook at basic, where the only kind of outside reading material allowed was religious.

Still, Davis doesn’t regret the decision to go to basic training this summer.

“I would never, ever change the decision,” he said. “It’s probably set me up for the rest of my life.”

His coaches at Yukon were supportive, too. Everyone from head coach Brian Sauser on down had no concerns about him going to basic.

“Blake does everything he’s supposed to do,” said Montey Mayfield, Davis’ position coach. “He’s a joy to have.”

Football coaches aren’t always so gung-ho. National Guard staff sergeant Nicholas Coleman, who is Davis’ recruiter, said he has a few high school players who go to basic every summer and their coaches often grumble about it.

Davis was set on going regardless. Basic training was the first step to realizing his dream. Next up is aircraft mechanic job training next summer in Alabama, then he’ll start working toward an aerospace engineering degree at Oklahoma State, where the National Guard will pay for him to get his degree.

But even though he’s already planted both feet into the military world, he wasn’t afraid to step back into football. Those around him say he’s working as hard as ever. He helps younger players. He motivates everyone.

“If we could have a Blake at every position,” Andraszek, his friend who plays linebacker, said, “we’d be … dominant.”

Blake Davis chalks up his outlook to the newfound appreciation he has for all sorts of things since going to basic training. He knows there are lots of men and women who sacrificed for his freedom. They gave him the chance to pursue his dream to fly one day.

But they also gave him the opportunity to play football now.

He intends to make the most of his Friday nights under the lights.

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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