Viera’s Davis finds right fit, signs with Illinois


Viera High's Cooper Davis on his recruiting process: “Chaotic. There are a lot of ups and downs emotions wise. You get really excited one second, and you get really disappointed one second when something happens.But in the end, you’re going to find a home and it’s going to be a good fit for you.” On Wednesday, Davis signed to play at the University of Illinois.


Cooper Davis has grown a lot as a person, and as a football player, during his time at Viera High.

Now, after signing his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday – the first day of the early signing period -- he’s heading to the University of Illinois to play for coach Lovie Smith and his staff next fall.

“It was just the family feel and the character of the men that are there,” Davis said of his decision to choose the Illini.

“I feel like they can shape me into a better man.”

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound defensive end ranks second in Viera football history with 52 career sacks. This past season, he had 103 tackles, 22 sacks and 39 tackles for loss.

A native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Davis had originally committed to the Tigers. But that all changed when the school fired coach Barry Odom late last month.

Davis, who has already established a strong relationship with Illinois defensive line coach Austin Clark, visited the campus two weeks ago. His host was former Holy Trinity star Seth Coleman.

While he didn’t take the decision to decommit from Missouri lightly, Davis felt like Illinois was the right place to begin the next chapter of his life.

“It took me a second because kind of in my heart I felt like I was betraying my hometown team,” he said. “But I also had to be a little selfish and think of what would be the best fit for me.”

Viera coach Derek Smith believes Davis’ long frame, quickness off the ball and his understanding of how to use leverage – not to mention a strong work ethic -- make him an ideal defensive end prospect for Illinois.

“I’m very excited,” Smith said. “To be quite frank, I think the Big 10 (Conference) was a very good choice for him. If you look at some of the great D-linemen that have recently come out of the Big 10, the two Bosa boys (Joey and Nick) were the same style of athlete, the same body frame.

“If he goes to the Big 10, where they take a body frame like him, they turn him into a run-stopping defensive lineman who can also play the pass. Whereas in the SEC, they’re pass rushers who have to learn how to stop the run.

“I think he becomes a very credible choice to play beyond the college level because of that. They’re looking for that 6-tech(nique)/3-tech defensive lineman that can be very interchangeable between the two with these 30 fronts that are being used in the NFL. I think he fits that mold very well.”

Davis, who is hoping to make an impact as a freshman, credited Smith and Viera defensive coordinator Ken Reda for helping him reach his lifelong goal of playing college football.

“My team here has been amazing,” Davis said. “Coach Smith and Coach Reda have molded me into … I feel like I’m a good guy, and a pretty good football player.

“All the respect in the world to them. They’ve changed my life.”