- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2021

When Tayon Fleet-Davis talks with his younger teammates, he knows they might not listen the first time. They’re young. They’re in college. And Fleet-Davis knows all about that combination.

But the Maryland running back stays in his teammates’ ears. He wants his message to break through, and the sooner the better. Because Fleet-Davis doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to any of his fellow Terrapins — when one misstep put his football career on hold.

“You can have fun,” Fleet-Davis tells his teammates, “but just know the slightest mistake and you can end it all.”

In the early morning hours of Nov. 22, 2019, Fleet-Davis was pulled over by University of Maryland police along Baltimore Avenue in College Park. He was charged with driving a vehicle while impaired, reckless driving and other misdemeanors, although the state opted against prosecuting Fleet-Davis in February, according to public case information.

Coach Mike Locksley suspended him for the final two games of the 2019 season, and it would be over a year before Fleet-Davis found his way back onto the field for a game, appearing in the 2020 season finale.

But now, Fleet-Davis is primed to become Maryland’s top running back, with his first major action coming in Saturday’s spring football game. Being back on the field at all is something Fleet-Davis won’t take for granted.

“Just remember everything I had and came from, and just know that it can be taken away,” Fleet-Davis said. “Just taking advantage of the opportunity I get from here on out. I think that can get me far.”

Before Fleet-Davis’ playing time was sidetracked, he was a large part of a three-headed rushing attack in 2019. Alongside Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake, Fleet-Davis recorded 446 all-purpose yards and punched in four touchdowns in the first 10 games of the season.

When he looks back at the night that changed everything, Fleet-Davis has a new perspective, similar to the one he preaches to his teammates.

“Something I’d do differently is just stay at home,” Fleet-Davis said. “If I’ve got to ask myself twice, then it’s probably not good for me.”

During his time out of the lineup for Saturdays, Fleet-Davis focused his efforts on practice, even when he didn’t know when he’d be allowed play again. He figured he could still help his team if he put in his all during workouts. When he lined up against the Terrapins’ first-team defense in practice, his contributions better prepared them for the upcoming opponent.

But that work in practice and in meetings also kept Fleet-Davis prepared, should an opportunity come along. Ahead of Maryland’s season finale against Rutgers last December, Locksley approached Fleet-Davis, telling him the time had come.

Fleet-Davis was shocked. He didn’t expect to return with one game remaining. And before that game at Maryland Stadium, Fleet-Davis remembers his hands being sweaty and needing running back Jake Funk and position coach Elijah Brooks to calm him down.

He had 10 carries for 26 yards and pulled in a pass for 17 yards in his long-awaited return.

“Even though that was my first game and last game of the season, I still went out there and tried as best I can,” Fleet-Davis said. “I appreciate that opportunity I was given for that one game, because I came here to play football.”

That limited action gave him a jolt heading into the offseason. And as the elder statesmen in an otherwise inexperienced running back room, Locksley said Fleet-Davis has “been providing tremendous leadership,”

When Fleet-Davis wasn’t playing, he watched closely how Funk prepared each week, dissecting the playbook while spending long hours in the film room studying the opposition. Fleet-Davis learned to add that to his own weekly routine, too.

So as Fleet-Davis approaches his fifth season with Maryland, he’s full of experience — both from practice and games as well as from time spent away from the field on Saturdays. But that time off the field only made him work harder to get back there, ready to make the most of this chance.

“Take advantage of every opportunity you get,” Fleet-Davis said. “That’s something I’m going to carry with me into this season. That’s why I’ll have a big chip on my shoulder.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide