East Xtra: Gateway teammates headed to Temple

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A pair of "Jordan 13" shoes can sell for more than $200 online, but for a couple of local high school football players, price didn't matter.

The shoes were about extending a bond between them for another four years.

Anthony Davis coveted Delvon Randall's blue and white Michael Jordan shoes. Davis and Randall have been teammates at Gateway High School for the past four years.

Randall, a wide receiver who caught 26 passes for 478 yards and scored four touchdowns last year, had already committed to Temple. Once he made his decision to be an Owl, he started recruiting Davis, a defensive back with offers from Nebraska and Penn State.

Another Gateway player, Brenon Thrift, a linebacker, had committed to Temple as well. Thrift, who was second on the team last season with 49 tackles (22 solo and 27 assists), led the Gators with 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

One of Randall's "sales pitches": If Davis, who had 38 tackles, 4 interceptions and scored 2 touchdowns last season, would commit to Temple, he would get the Jordan 13s. While Davis wasn't serious about taking Randall's gift, Randall was serious about giving it.

So on a Friday, Davis sat in Randall's living room, watching highlight tape of Randall on his Playstation 3. That's when Davis broke the news, telling Randall that he would announce his commitment to Temple the following day.

"I picked up his shoes, and I walked out of the room with them," Davis said. "He didn't believe me."

Still skeptical, Randall took the shoes back. He told Davis that if he committed, he would walk them over to his house the next day. Sure enough, on July 6, Davis was in possession of the Jordan 13s.

"He didn't wear them," Davis said. "He was just spoiled with shoes."

All three Gateway players will head to Philadelphia to play for the Owls and their former coach Terry Smith, who spent 11 seasons at Gateway. Temple announced in January that Smith joined the staff as the Owls' new wide receivers coach.

In 2012, the Gateway school board voted that the school's athletic director could not also be the football coach. The board also cut the AD post to a part-time position. Smith held both positions and the board's decisions forced him to take a dramatic pay cut. He left Gateway after the 2012 season.

Randall said he never really considered going to Temple before Smith joined the coaching staff. A lack of offers, however, caused Randall to become nervous.

"I panicked," Randall said. "I had to go with who I trust the most, which is coach Terry."

Randall was the first of the three Gateway players to verbally commit to Temple. Thrift wasn't far behind. He felt comfortable with Smith there and trusts that his former high school coach will look out for him.

"I just felt like I was wanted," Thrift said. "I didn't feel like any old recruit."

All three players stressed how coach Smith was a disciplinarian as well as a football coach. Randall said if a Gateway player struggled in school, the coach would make the player run during practice or, if necessary, be suspended from the team until that player's grades improved.

Davis told a story of how he, Randall and another Gateway player were once throwing paper airplanes in a science class -- the same class in which they had been struggling. The teacher threatened to tell Smith of their misbehavior.

"The next three months we acted good," Davis said. "We sat straight up."

Now, the three will stand together at Temple. They say their fellow Gateway teammate, Montae Nicholson, a four-star recruit according to rivals.com, is unlikely to join them.

So, barring an unforeseen change, it will be Thrift, Randall and Davis playing together for another four years. Even though Davis will be missing a pair of his shoes, they won't be far away.

"He said he always wanted them," Randall said of giving Davis the shoes. "I told him I'd look out for him if he looked out for me."


Mike Vernon: mvernon@post-gazette.com or Twitter @m_vernon. First Published July 25, 2013 4:00 AM


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