Coming out of Tucker High School in Tucker, Ga., Davanta Reynolds was told he was too short and too slow to play Division I football.
The 5-10, 200-pound defensive back was even told by a coach that the only shot he’d have at playing college football would be at the Division II level. So Reynolds was preparing to transition into basketball, thinking his football career was over.
But then he got a call from N.C. Central, a Division I school he had never heard of.
Three three years later, Reynolds was named the school’s first Associated Press All-American since 2006. The redshirt sophomore on Tuesday was selected to the third-team defense of the AP FCS All-America team.
This season, Reynolds tied for second in the nation (FCS) with six interceptions. On Sept. 28, he returned one of those interceptions 31 yards for a touchdown against Florida A&M. The week before, he had also returned a fumble recovery 85 yards for a touchdown against South Carolina State. That play was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 Plays the following morning.
In three years as a starter, Reynolds has recorded 125 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, eight interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.
He learned about his All-America honors when teammate redshirt senior defensive lineman Roderick Harris sent him a message congratulating him. Reynolds, who was named First-Team All-MEAC, thought Harris was referring to that honor instead.
Moments later, he saw the link to the All-America list and still couldn’t believe it.
“I’ll never forget,” Reynolds said. “I was playing ‘Call of Duty’ and as soon as I got the link I saw my name, I turned off the game and just got down on my knees and starting thanking God. I still couldn’t believe it.”
Reynolds said the 2017 season was probably the healthiest he’s been since he arrived in Durham. He had hip surgery after his redshirt freshman season in 2015 but started all 12 games in 2016, collecting 38 tackles.
After doubling up on his film study and finally being healthy, Reynolds was a playmaker in the secondary for the Eagles this past season. He got his first interception during the home opener against Shaw on Sept. 9, and that started his streak of four straight games with a takeaway. He trusted his eyes and was able to play faster in 2017.
N.C. Central interim head coach Granville Eastman, who recruited Reynolds and has coached the team’s safeties since 2014, said having Reynolds in the secondary is like having another coach on the field.
“Davanta is one of our prize pupils,” Eastman said. “I think this accolade speaks to his work ethic, it speaks to how he takes to coaching, it speaks to other different things that he embraces, in addition to giving good effort and being a top performer on the field.”
“I always knew I could become an All-American player,” Reynolds said. “It was just about staying the course, having faith and determination. Throughout the zero offers I continued to have my head up once I got to college and everything is starting to come in place because I never gave up on my dreams.”