Marengo wide receiver-defensive back Cole Davis is brought down after a reception in the Indians' Class 4A playoff victory over Manteno last season. Davis committed to North Dakota, an NCAA Division I FCS school, to play football.
Marengo wide receiver-defensive back Cole Davis is brought down after a reception in the Indians' Class 4A playoff victory over Manteno last season. Davis committed to North Dakota, an NCAA Division I FCS school, to play football. — Aaron Shepley for Shaw Media

Marengo’s 2017 football season had just finished with the Indians out of the playoffs at 2-7 and the coaching staff figured it would give the players time off until January before going hard into offseason workouts.

It was at that point when Marengo coach Paul Forsythe learned something about one of his young players.

Speedy freshman Cole Davis, not yet a varsity team member, asked Forsythe if he could come in to lift the next Monday.

“He wasn’t saying it to be, ‘I want to show you how dedicated I am,’” Forsythe said. “I don’t think he’s missed a day (working out) in 3 1/2 years. That, right away, told me about him. He’s incredible in the weight room. He’s incredible when we drill on the field. When I’m teaching kids in our program what we do, he’s an example. Cole practices at 100 miles an hour. He’s really helped create this culture of how we practice at Marengo. He’s kind of the poster child on how things ought to be done.”

The poster child announced on Monday that he plans to play at North Dakota, an NCAA FCS Division I school in Grand Forks, next year. Davis (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) will join the Fighting Hawks as a defensive back.

Davis, who decided on North Dakota last week, announced his decision on Twitter Monday night. North Dakota coach Bubba Schweigert has former Marengo lineman Jagger Ferden on the roster as a freshman offensive lineman.

“I built up a really good relationship with their coaching staff and they took the time to talk to me every week,” Davis said. “I really liked what the coaches are about, that put them over the top. (Jagger and I) talked about it quite a bit. He helped me in making my decision. He loves it up there and loves the coaches. We have some unfinished business when it comes to getting a ring, it’ll be fun chasing that with him at North Dakota.”

Davis made an impact immediately as a sophomore wide receiver and defensive back. He caught 50 passes, 10 for touchdowns, finishing third in the area and was a Northwest Herald All-Area second-team selection on offense as a sophomore.

Last season, Davis tied for the area lead with 37 catches, eight of which went for touchdowns, and was named to the All-Area first team as a defensive back. He had three interceptions and five pass break-ups on defense.

Davis was also looking at Drake and Davidson, both of which are FCS schools in the Pioneer Football League, which does not award athletic scholarships, and at D-II Truman State in Missouri.

North Dakota coaches saw Ferden in person last season against Johnsburg and Davis’ performance helped him get noticed as well.

“I’m the kind of guy who is going to come with a chip on my shoulder,” Davis said. “They’re going to get my best. I can be a leader for the defense. It’s always been my dream to play Division I football and I’ve worked super-hard since junior tackle. As soon as I got pulled up my sophomore year, I thought, ‘I can do this and I’m a good player.’”

Davis will be a focal point of the offense when IHSA football resumes in the spring. He should be the favorite target of sophomore quarterback Josh Holst, who started late last season for the Indians.

Forsythe is thrilled that Davis has the opportunity and believes he earned it. Davis has been an integral part of a program that is 17-6 over the last two seasons. Running back-linebacker Finn Schirmer (Minnesota, track and field) and Ferden are two of the key graduates, but the Indians have a lot coming back with Davis, including Jonah Pace, who is committed to Central Michigan as a defensive lineman.

“(Davis) has earned all the attention he’s gotten,” Forsythe said. “Everything, all his decisions, revolve around football and what’s going to make him better at football. Sometimes that means saying no to people because Cole wants to play at the next level. He’s really been our best football player the last couple years, and we’ve had some good ones.”