Raised in a basketball family, Brad Davison yearned to reach the collegiate level like older sisters Stephanie and Angie. Some coaches felt getting there, however, meant he must give up football.
It's a big risk, they cautioned. It's a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time.
On the latter point, those coaches were correct. Davison worked hard and became not just a great athlete playing quarterback at Maple Grove, but a great quarterback. As far as risk, Davison considered real pain the sort that comes from letting teammates down. So he twice ignored pressure to focus on basketball, first as a promising sophomore and again as senior just weeks after fulfilling his hoop dreams with a verbal commitment to Wisconsin.
"A lot of people tell you what they think you should do," Davison said. "But when it came down to it, I just enjoyed playing football and being with my teammates so much that I had to do it."
He carried the Crimson (8-3) this fall, throwing for 2,418 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushing for 891 yards and 15 scores. He got extra reps with receivers after practice three days per week. And he handled growing media attention well, using "sir" or "ma'am" whenever possible.
Davison earned Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year honors as a quarterback opposing coaches struggled to stop and found impossible to dislike.
Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant spoke to Davison after the Class 6A state tournament quarterfinals and flipped the anti-football script offered by basketball coaches.
"What I told him, I said I think the Gophers should have offered him," Grant said. "I said I think he'd be one of the great quarterbacks at Minnesota. Seriously."
Davison, a junior guard on the Star Tribune All-Metro first team, never considered leaving basketball. But he made playing quarterback a point of pride.
"When I was a sophomore and junior, when you thought of Maple Grove you thought, 'Make 'em pass,' " Davison said. "I kind of had a chip on my shoulder because of that."
A strong Crimson running game meant Davison primarily threw the ball on play-action for two seasons. The playbook expanded this fall. Davison completed more passes (166) than he previously attempted yet finished with a higher completion rate (62.9 percent). He threw more touchdown passes than the previous two seasons combined. Davison, 6-4 and 200 pounds, led the tough West Metro South subdistrict in passing yards and ranked second in rushing.
Then there were the subtle ways Davison asserted control. Coach Matt Lombardi said he made Davison a "second coach" on the field, trusting him to count the number of defenders in the box and check out of plays as needed.
"I put so much more time into basketball at a younger age because I was brought up in a basketball family," Davison said. "So it came more natural to me. I didn't start taking football as seriously until sophomore year. It hit me that if I want my team to be successful, I've got to elevate my game."
Davison started this fall by rallying his team to a victory over rival Osseo. He overcame a dreadful start — two interceptions in the first 15 minutes — to account for 331 total yards and three touchdowns.
After the game, he noticed a Crimson student-manager struggling to get the first-down markers off the field. So he picked them up.
"My dad saw that and he said to me, 'He's a good kid,' " Lombardi said. "He's made a huge impact on this school and he's done it with humility and grace. Because of that, our kids responded.''