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Tough choice pays off for Ti’jaih Davis, who has become leader on, off football field at Boys Town

TJ FootballTi'jaih Davis arrived at Boys Town in June 2014 from a rough neighborhood in Baltimore, mainly for two reasons. First, he wanted to avoid the violence and distractions of his hometown. Second, he wanted to be a positive influence on his family.

The decision was not easy for Davis and his mother, whom he left in Baltimore when he was 14. But it has proven to be a good one.

Davis, entering his final year as a Boys Town quarterback and defensive back, accepted a scholarship offer in late June to play in the secondary at South Dakota State. He picked the Jackrabbits over an offer from fellow FCS school North Dakota. He also had interest from North Dakota State. It's unlikely that any of the schools would have been aware of Davis' football abilities had he stayed on the East Coast.

And he might not have achieved as much.

"In Baltimore there is a lot of violence and not many opportunities to be successful and achieve the goals you set for yourself," he said, thinking back on his decision at 14. "This would get me out of all of the distractions and away from the crime in Baltimore."

Now he wants to parlay his full scholarship into a degree and be in position to help his family financially.

"I wanted to set myself up to be financially stable and support myself, my family and make sure that no one in my family has to struggle," he said.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Davis, who also goes by T.J., has started at defensive back since arriving at Boys Town as a freshman. As a junior, he started playing quarterback and set single-season school records for passing yards and touchdowns.

He's also grown into a leader of the Boys Town community, elected by students as vice mayor for the 2017-18 school year.

Chris Nizzi, Boys Town's new football coach, has been impressed.

"Ti'jaih understands that leaders need to be humble and workers first," Nizzi said. "That has been an important piece to the beginning of our workouts in the summer and hopefully going into our season. We are very eager to see how he grows as a quarterback, defensive back, football player and young man in our football program."

Davis didn't know what to expect from Nizzi but said he has been impressed with his new coach.

"He has done a whole lot for me that I didn't expect from a coach," Davis said. "He has held us accountable and teaches us discipline. He has been a big factor in getting me out there in front of coaches."

"At Boys Town you just have to keep your head up and stay disciplined," he said. "Here you are going to make a lot of mistakes even though they seem like the smallest mistakes in the real world. They hold you accountable for everything."

Leaving home and being away from his family for three-plus years has been hard, but he realizes that it has helped him achieve a new perspective.

"With your actions you can help a lot of other people because when someone sees someone else doing something (good), they believe they can do it," Davis said. "No matter what is going on, you can't stop and can never let up."