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USF's Davis finding a shoe that fits

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For South Florida offensive lineman Frank Davis, the best thing about playing football in America is the shoes.

Davis, a senior guard, grew up in the Republic of Panama and played two years there in a fledgling high school league. It was difficult to find good competition.

"It wasn't as organized as high school football is here," Davis said. "We had four teams. We would play each other over and over and whoever had the best records went to the championship."

It was even harder for Davis and his teammates to come up with the kind of basic equipment that kids in the United States take for granted.

During his senior season at the Kilpatrick School in Panama City, Davis' feet were size 13. But nobody on the team could find any shoes larger than size 11, so Davis scrunched up his toes and made do.

"Every time I'd go to the sideline, I'd take those size 11s off to give my feet a break," Davis said. "When they called my (uniform) number, I'd have to put my shoes back on before I went out to play."

Davis, a senior at South Florida, wears a size 16 these days. But that's no longer an issue.

"It's just such a luxury to go into the office and say, 'Coach, I need a new pair of cleats,' and they've got 'em, no problem," Davis said, laughing. "I never thought I would be in this position. I thank the Lord every day for giving me the strength and sense of mind to be able to do what I do."

Davis was born in New York City. When he was 2 years old, his mother, Delia Richards, moved back to her hometown in Panama, where her family could help raise her son.

When a group of players from Panama were invited to a football camp on the USF campus in the summer of 2001, Davis caught the eye of college recruiters.

A handful of Division I schools were interested in Davis, but most wanted him to first attend a junior college. Davis hesitated, and considered staying in Panama.

"I didn't really know what a junior college was," he said.

Then, South Florida offered him a chance to walk on to the team as a freshman. Davis accepted, and wound up receiving a scholarship from USF.

"I first got here, they gave me a helmet and gloves -- I never used gloves when I played down there (in Panama)," he said. "It was amazing."

Davis knew he would have to adjust quickly to playing and living in America. He admits that getting into the routine of being a full-time student and a Division I athlete was a bit overwhelming.

"That first year was difficult," Davis said. "I was homesick. I missed my mom and dad, my sister and brother, the people I grew up with. But I talked to the coaches and they told me to hang in there and things would get better, and they did."

As a redshirt freshman in 2002, Davis appeared in nine games, eight of them as a backup. He started five games at left guard the next season. Last year, he was in the lineup for the first six games before being sidelined by an ankle injury.

This season, Davis is the core of an offensive line which has yielded just five sacks and powers one of the top rushing attacks (231 yards per game) in the Big East. At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Davis is considered the strongest player on the team.

"He's one of us, just one of the guys," quarterback Pat Julmiste said. "Yeah, he has an accent, but he talks the way we talk and he acts the way we act. It's like he's from around here. He's a leader out there on the field."

Rob Biertempfel can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or (724) 853-2110.

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