Davis Alexander is asked to fetch two priceless photographs, his father giddy in excitement.
The first is a Davis Alexander player card. Not from Gig Harbor High School, where he’s since become an unflappable dual-threat quarterback heading to Portland State University next year. He was 4 years old, with a giant smile and spiked blond hair, and his father told the team he was 6 so he could play.
The next is from his youth team in Oakland, where he was a scrawny offensive and defensive lineman, practiced inside 60-foot fences where only coaches and players were allowed inside and was yelled at daily.
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“That’s where he learned to play football because he got his (butt) handed to him,” his father Matt Alexander, a former professional rugby player, said in his thick South African accent. “He cried every single time we drove home. But then every day, the next day, he’d say, ‘I’m going back.’ I thought it was the best thing ever.”
He’s still not the biggest player on the field and mop-haired. But his ability to launch 60-yard passes or take off for 60-yard touchdown runs his senior year at Gig Harbor was rivaled by no other quarterback in the state.
Davis Alexander threw for 2,825 yards, 34 touchdowns and only two interceptions and ran for another 1,091 yards, 12 touchdowns this season, which is why he’s The News Tribune’s 2015 All-Area football player of the year.
Compare that to the first time his mother tried to register him for football when he moved to Gig Harbor — via Denver; Scottsdale, Arizona; then Orinda, California — in the fourth grade.
“I was sitting in my room. My mom came in and said, ‘We got to register you for football’ and I just started crying,’ ” said Alexander, who claims South Africa as his nationality despite being born in Denver. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to play football.’ But she’s like, ‘No, you’re playing football.’ ”
He’s been told that if he were 6-foot-6 he could play at any college he wanted, or if he were 6-2 he’d be playing in the Pac-12 next year.
But he’s 5-11, 180 pounds. He was told he’d probably be able to play at any NAIA school, but nothing bigger – despite his 6,936 total yards of offense in two years as a full-time starter.
Alexander found an NCAA Division I school anyway and committed to Portland State.
“My dad was talking to me yesterday about it: ‘That’s so frustrating. Two inches and you can go wherever you want,’ ” Alexander said. “I told him the same thing I’m telling you. I don’t really care. It doesn’t bother me at all. I can’t do anything about it. I’m just really happy to be able to get a scholarship to go to Portland State.”
Alexander remembered tying former Bothell quarterback Ross Bowers, a 6-foot-2 freshman at Cal this year, with a 62-yard throw during a long-toss competition at an offseason camp, with Lake Stevens’ Jacob Eason, a 6-foot-6 Georgia commit, throwing the farthest at 63 yards.
“I think initially that was a huge thing was him being a small quarterback, so people underestimated him,” Gig Harbor wide receiver Noah Samsen said. “And they paid for it on the field.”
Alexander had seven total touchdowns against South Kitsap earlier this year. He ran for 123 yards on three touchdown runs in the third quarter alone.
“You look at him and he’s still this shaggy-haired, 17-year-old and he doesn’t look like a Division I football player,” Gig Harbor coach Aaron Chantler said. “Once you can peel past all that and get past his height — which it took time for colleges to do — and watch him play, who cares how big the guy is? Because he can play.
“I felt like a salesperson trying to sell the kid. I’m like, ‘Just put the film on. I don’t have to sell him. Just look at him.’ And then they’d see his film and go, ‘You’re right. He can play.’ ”
Chantler said his quarterback — who won’t turn 18 until October, about five months after he graduates from high school — was actually Gig Harbor’s offensive coordinator this year.
“I’ve never given a kid the keys like I did Davis,” Chantler said. “The conversations that he and I have when he comes off the field dissecting what he can see are far beyond what I’ve had with anybody else. His football IQ is through the roof.
“You’re only blessed so many times with that kind of level of talent. Knock on wood, someday I’ll be blessed with a quarterback like him again. But he’s special. If that’s the only one I get for my career, that’s OK.”
Olympia coach Bill Beattie said Alexander was the best quarterback he has seen — even dating back to other notable ones he saw in offseason camps.
“What separates him is he has a very good understanding of reading coverages and where he wants to go with the football,” Beattie said. “That is what is going to make him good at the next level. He can really zip the ball and he’s got the physical skills to do whatever he wants. But what impresses me more, especially for a guy at the high school level, is knowing where to get the ball right away. And he gets it there.”
Alexander didn’t learn that at a passing academy, in a playbook or at practice.
He used a video game.
Alexander said he was inspired by playing as former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in Madden NFL.
Throw, run or throw on the run — he was mesmerized.
“You couldn’t stop me when I was playing Madden when I could run the ball with Vick, throw on the run with Vick and sit in the pocket with Vick,” Alexander said. “So when I was working with my great-uncle, one of the first things I said to him was, ‘I need to figure out how to throw the ball on the run and off balance because it’s unstoppable.’ ”
His father was 40 when he finished a professional rugby career that took him from South Africa to England to almost all over the U.S. But he said he always wanted to play football — he even tried out for the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys. So he said he lives vicariously through his son.
They watch their favorite team, the Denver Broncos, play every Sunday. But Davis said he still doesn’t quite understand rugby — cricket or soccer for that matter, either.
But he hopes to join his father one day and be able to call himself a professional athlete.
Even if he is 5-11.
“My dad taught me a lot of lessons about what I can do and can’t do if I’m trying to reach my goals,” Alexander said. “He knows what my goals are. My goals are to go as far as I can in football.”