Kentucky Wildcats running back Ray Davis
Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ray Davis is one of the best running backs in the 2024 NFL Draft this April, but the road to reaching the National Football League for the Kentucky Wildcats star has been very different and far more challenging than many of his peers. It’s also why Davis is one of the most inspirational players headed to the NFL.

Many football fans are familiar with Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum and Florida State Seminoles running back Trey Benson. Corum, a reigning national champion and two-time All-American in Ann Arbor, is highly decorated as a former 247 Sports’ four-star recruit and Benson was also a sought-after four-star recruit.

  • Ray Davis stats Kentucky: 1,129 rushing yards, 5.7 yards per carry, 14 rushing touchdowns, 33 receptions, 323 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns

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Davis left Blair Academy in New Jersey rated as a three-star recruit, landing in the 247 Composite rankings as the 1,218th-best player in his class and the 116th-best running back coming out of high school. Davis faced long odds to become a starting running back at the Division I level and he wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a potential NFL talent. As Davis has proven throughout his life, however, he can overcome the worst odds and situations and come out of it on top.

Everything you need to know about Kentucky Wildcats running back Ray Davis

Kentucky Wildcats running back Ray Davis
Oct 14, 2023; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Ray Davis signs a football for a fan at Cat Walk before the game against the Missouri Tigers at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Davis even earning multiple scholarship offers was a testament to his ability to overcome the worst circumstances life could throw at a young person. Born in San Francisco, California, the reigning first-team All-SEC running back grew up homeless. He was also tasked with supporting his brothers and sisters at an age when most of his peers at that age were having fun,

  • Ray Davis college stats: 3,626 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 29 rushing touchdowns, 94 receptions, 762 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns

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As detailed in a feature story by Zak Keefer of The Athletic, Davis found himself walking the streets in San Francisco every morning at 9 years old taking his younger sister to school. Once he ensured that his sister got to school safely so she could get an education to better her future, Davis then went home to care for his baby brother. At that time, he would sometimes go days and even weeks without being able to make it to school for his education.

Growing up, Davis bounced around from place to place. He stayed with his mother for a little while and once she disappeared, he slept on the floor at his grandmother’s place until he was pulled into the foster care system. An opportunity arose for him and one of his sisters to be adopted by a foster family. Davis sacrificed an opportunity to have that safety and structure around him so his brother could take his place with his sister.

With both of his parents incarcerated for long periods of his life, Davis was forced to become a provider for his family as a child. Fortunately, just as he was there to support his brothers and sisters, the community around him stepped up. As he told The Athletic, a local chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program provided him with some guidance when he was 8 years old. However, through the sixth grade, he was largely homeless.

  • Ray Davis NFL draft projection: Round 4-5

He eventually received the life-changing support he needed from Lora Davis, which led him to Trinity-Pawling School in New York after the state of California approved for him to move for his safety. He received a scholarship to play basketball at Trinity-Pawling and joined the football team.

Davis finished high school one credit short of being academically eligible to play in the NCAA. So, he went to Blair Academy in New Jersey, taking the post-graduate classes necessary to enroll at Temple University.

After two seasons at Temple, rushing for over 1,200 yards, the NCAA transfer portal provided Davis with an opportunity to play in the SEC. He went to Vanderbilt, first serving as a backup and then he became the Commodores’ starting running back in 2022. After rushing for 1,042 yards, Davis used his final year of eligibility to transfer to Kentucky, becoming the best running back in the SEC in 2023.

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Davis ranked 20th in the FBS last year in scrimmage yards (1,452), which ranked second among SEC players. He also delivered his best performances against conference rivals, rushing for 128 yards against Missouri and erupting for 280 rushing yards and 4 total touchdowns in a 33-14 victory over the Florida Gators. Now, Davis will soon be in the NFL providing an example to future generations that you can overcome the longest of odds to achieve your dreams.