It isn't often that summer passing leagues and tournaments do much more than whet the appetite for the high school football season.
But in the case of Glendale High junior receiver Mike Davis, it was in the dog days of summer that the 6-foot-2 speedster began turning heads.
"In the summer, he was great," says Nitros third-year Coach Alan Eberhart. "He changed the game. Good teams could not cover him. Alemany couldn't cover him."
Alemany is a reigning CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division semifinalist and was one of myriad high-profile, big-time teams that Glendale squared up against during the summer. It was a summer in which the Nitros were a semifinalist at the College of the Canyons Passing Tournament before winning the Ayala Tournament.
"Because of Michael, we won that tournament," says Glendale senior running back Alex Yoon.
Davis, the reigning Pacific League 100- and 200-meters track and field champion, was simply too fast for most defenders to keep up with.
"Every time I did something and turned some heads," Davis says, "I got a little more attention and a little more confident."
Granted, that was the summer and 11-on-11 in full pads during the fall is far different, but with all the heads that turned in Davis' direction, it is clear that, as the 2011 football season dawns, it is Davis' time to shine under the lights.
"This year would be his time to shine," Yoon says. "As long as he gets the ball, he'll be good."
Making Davis' breakout all the more notable — and in some people's eyes surprising — is the fact that it comes on the heels of a season in which the Nitros went 1-9 and a then-sophomore Davis was rarely an afterthought in his team's wing-T, run-first offense.
"He only caught one ball last year, which is amazing to me," Eberhart says, "but we couldn't throw the ball."
Enter senior quarterback Evan Norton.
Yoon, an All-Pacific League and All-Area selection last year as a quarterback who ran for more than 700 yards, but barely eclipsed 400 yards passing, will play fullback, while Norton, who's recovered from a collarbone injury, will line up under center.
"Michael's a playmaker, so I don't have to do much," Norton says.
Nonetheless, Norton has an arm that can keep up with Davis' legs, something that wasn't a part of the Nitros' arsenal last season.
"Evan is more of a throwing quarterback," Yoon says. "That's one thing I couldn't do. … Him and Evan are really connecting."
Thus, the Nitros' offense has a relatively simple gameplan that they hope will be an effective one with Yoon leading the way rushing and hopefully forcing opposing defenses to leave Davis in one-on-one coverage for Norton to throw over the top to.
With his still growing frame and still sprouting height, Davis has the look of a prototypical receiver. But make no mistake, it is his speed that has drawn notice.
"He realized [during the summer] no one can cover him," Norton says. "If he runs a streak, nobody can cover him. I think he realized, when he's at his best, no one can guard him."
As Davis tells it, track was his first love — though he began it in seventh grade at the same time that he began playing flag football. His track prowess has been showcased with plenty of Pacific League titles, as he claimed the 200 title as a freshman before winning the 100, 200 and taking part in a league-winning 4x400 relay. As a sophomore, Davis, the area's fast runner with season-best times of 10.79 in the 100 and 21.65 in the 200, also advanced to the CIF finals in both individual events.
While Davis maintains that he doesn't prefer football over track or vice versa, football has definitely caught up. And his skills are catching up, as well.
"He's big … fast and explosive," Eberhart says. "He catches the ball, he's got good hands. He's not one of those awkward, track-and-field guys who can't catch, he can catch the ball. If we can get him the ball, he can be great."
Just how great obviously remains to be seen for a player brimming with potential, but yet to show it off in the regular season.
"He might have the most physical talent [of anybody I have coached] since Kenny Pritchett in 1997 [at Crescenta Valley]," says Eberhart, comparing him to the former CV running back who rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his career en route to playing at UCLA. "He can do it all."
With the physical tools and budding hype, Davis appears he might very well have a future in football beyond the confines of Glendale High.
"He's working hard," Eberhart says. "He sees he has a future in football and he's intrigued by it.
"He's gonna get a scholarship somewhere because of his potential."
But that's Davis' future and his present is all about helping a struggling Glendale program improve.
"Last year was mainly only running [the ball]. This year, we're working as a team and we're trying to get both the run and pass going," Davis says. "The main goal is for us to have more wins."
As for any individual goals, they're quite simple when it comes to the Nitros' starting receiver and safety.
Says Davis: "I just want to keep turning heads."
And as long as he keeps running past people, heads will keep turning.