GREENVILLE, Ala. — Marlon Davidson has a new high school team this fall in Alabama. He also has a new number. That’s a lot of change for a 5-star prospect set to announce his college commitment on Friday.
Auburn should be his choice. He said in late July he’d go there if February’s signing day was held on Aug. 1. But Alabama and UGA were bunched tight with the Tigers.
But his story is more important than his leaders. It starts with the No. 47 he’s wearing for Greenville High School.
“That’s the age my mother was when she died,” he said.
Cynthia Carter was “his Moms.” Davidson was the youngest of her three boys.
“I grew up right under her,” Davidson said. “Some guys my age can’t stand to be around their parents. Not me. I’d like nothing better than to be riding around in the car with her. I wish I could do that now, but she’s gone.”
Cynthia Carter passed away on Feb. 23. It left Davidson two options. His older brother Ken Carter was in Auburn. He played for the Tigers on the defensive line and is now a member of Auburn’s football support staff.
Davidson chose to return to his family’s roots in Greenville, 44 miles away from the loaded team he played for his junior year in Montgomery. Cynthia Carter had a job helping to fabricate seat belts at a local plant in Greenville. Ken and the middle brother Marvin had all played for Greenville, too.
Carter’s leg had been aggravating her, but she never told Davidson. He learned about her muscle spasms from his older brother. Davidson said she went to an urgent care clinic.
“If she would’ve only really gotten herself checked out,” he said.
Carter was about to get in her car after a visit to that urgent care clinic. A major hospital was right across the street.
“When she collapsed she hit her head on a concrete block,” Davidson said. “You know the type meant to stop your car when you park? She hit her head on that so hard it created a clot in the back of her head.”
Davidson believes he’d never have lost her if she would’ve sought more than pain management from an urgent care center.
“The fall created that clot,” Davidson said. “They couldn’t do anything about it. She died about 30 seconds to a minute after she got to that hospital. It was right across the street.”
His mother sang and played the keyboard at Ridgeville Baptist Church. The memories tear at him. When he returned for Mother’s Day, he couldn’t sit in a pew for two minutes. He had to leave.
“She also gave me one”
Davidson said his father was and still is “not in the picture.” But Carter could handle it. His mother had two jobs in real life and at home, but never missed the chance to see her sons play football.
Marlon shared a story of a clash with his eighth-grade coach. He can’t recall what caused a spat which led him to storm off the practice field, but he never stopped until he had walked the five miles back home. His mom was there.
“Boy what in the world are you doing home an hour early?” Cynthia Carter said.
“I quit,” Davidson said.
Davidson can’t remember all the words she said after that.
“She was real mad,” he said. “She said you are going back, but she also gave me one.”
That “one” was an old-fashioned whipping. Davidson was 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed 175 pounds, but said she “still hurt me that day with her belt.”
The elite recruit said if his mother had been the nurturing type, then that would’ve been it.
“If she would’ve let me quit, I would not be playing football now,” Davidson said. “That’s my momma, though. She was a different Mom. She was a Mother and a Dad and a lot more.”
Davidson said that his oldest brother Ken Carter, the Auburn letterman, would’ve likely never pressured him to return.
“I’d be doing nothing right now,” Davidson said. “Probably playing basketball. Never going anywhere. I’d just be a 6-foot-5 athlete who can’t dribble. Basketball wouldn’t get me anywhere. You have to be able to dribble the ball and I can’t dribble.”
What he can do between the lines earned him a fifth star.
“Marlon can get sucked in by the quarterback on a screen and be right in his face,” said Billy Gresham, who coached him at Carver-Montgomery. “But he’s got the turn-and-go ability to recover to tackle a good running back for a two-yard gain. That’s something few 270-pound high school defensive ends can do.”
“SHE’S WITH ME”
Why do 5-star recruits fizzle out in college? Internal motivation is a major factor. That won’t be an issue with Davidson.
Everything he does in football will be for his mother. The deciding factor in why he moved back to Greenville was so he could be near her gravesite.
“I go there probably two times a week,” he said this summer. “I kiss it. When I go, I’m happy. Then when I leave another piece of me leaves again. That missing piece hurts. Once I walk away from her, I can’t stop looking back. It is like I’m turning my back on her.”
Davidson said he’d build his house across the street from that graveyard if he could. But he’s got a better plan in mind.
“I told my mother before she passed it may sound weird, but she was going to stay with me when I make it,” Davidson said. “Either with me in my house or next door. I told my auntie after she died to keep all her shoes and clothes and even her car. I’m going to come back and get it all because I’m making pro (football) and I’ve got to make it. I’m determined to make it. I’m going to sit her up a room in my big house and fill it with her stuff. It will be her room.”
The nation’s No. 8 overall prospect plans to restore that car, too.
“Then I am going to sit it up in a shed,” Davidson said. “I’m telling you that’s exactly how it will be. She’s going to be there with me”
Davidson went to a Rivals elite camp a month after her funeral. He had done zero training. He was in decent shape because he played for Carver’s state champion basketball team.
He knew he wasn’t ready. When he got there, he took a knee and prayed.
“I said ‘Momma, this day is for you’ then,” he said. “I wanted every time I played football from then on to honor her.”
Davidson abused some of the best O-line prospects in the South.
“I did the best out of everybody,” Davidson said, who was named the defensive line MVP at the event. “I did that for my momma.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.