Linebacker Davis-Gaither enjoys senior year success

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Megan McCulloh

Senior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither has had quite the career in his time playing for the Mountaineers. After his breakout junior season with 105 stops, Davis-Gaither currently has 76 and will likely be a major contributing player to the team's success in the postseason.

Despite a transitional year with the coaching change, the App State football team is enjoying some of its greatest success since moving up to Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Head coach Eliah Drinkwitz preaches the same goal every week: go “1-0,” meaning to win each game. 

Senior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither is one of those players who resonates with “1-0,” and is one of the anchors on a defense that has grown all season. 

After totalling 49 tackles in his first two seasons, Davis-Gaither enjoyed a breakout junior season, in which he registered 105 stops and earned a second team all-Sun Belt selection. Davis-Gaither is currently second on the team in tackles with 95, tied for second in sacks with 4.5 and also has one interception. 

However, it has not been an easy road for him, and his performance this year is the result of years of hard work and dedication. 

“Just watching old film from 2016, I did a full 180,” Davis-Gaither said. “I have to give thanks to Coach DJ (Smith), my position coach, and the strength for always putting in work and not letting me accept just being mediocre.” 

Along with his value on the field, Davis-Gaither is well aware that his role off the field is equally important as a senior. He said he knows it is important for him to make sure his teammates and fellow linebackers are well prepared for whatever challenges they face throughout the season.

“I always get in the younger guys’ ears and show that it’s never an easy road starting out. We’ve all been there where it was rough,” Davis-Gaither said. “I’m always trying to build them up and put confidence in them because that’s what I lacked when I was first coming in.”

His teammates see the benefits of having him around in both the locker room and on the field. Fellow senior and all-Sun Belt linebacker Jordan Fehr has developed a unique partnership with Davis-Gaither, and the two of them have become one of the most successful duos in the conference. 

“I love playing next to Akeem. He’s a great guy off the field, especially, and on the field, we work really well together,” Fehr said. 

Davis-Gaither and his teammates are not the only ones that have noticed his growth and success over the years. App State alumnus and outside linebacker coach Smith, who joined the coaching staff in 2016, has seen him grow as a player and a leader. He has also developed a very close relationship with Davis-Gaither. 

“He really takes care of the young guys and just really helps me out in making sure guys are lined up on the field and just being that extra coach on the field,” Smith said. “We just kind of gelled together with that underdog mentality, and a lot of people counted us out, and we grew together.”

As the season comes to a close, Davis-Gaither will play a huge part for the Mountaineers as they look to achieve their goals of winning a conference championship, a bowl game and most importantly, going “1-0” each week.