When class was almost in session, Sean Davis walked straight to the basement, no questions asked. Breakfast was over. Mom played no games in her classroom, especially when it came to math. He went to his desk and they got to work.
Davis’ experience as a homeschooled kid from Grades 3-8 helped shape who he is, which as of six days ago is a Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety and No. 58 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Davis cites his own success story for an endorsement of home school, which he feels has a negative social stigma.
Davis found he could be worldly, even from his basement.
“There’s this picture that some kids are home all day locked up in the house, socially awkward,” said Davis, who recorded more than 300 tackles at Maryland. “We definitely didn’t have any of that. Home school gets a bad rap. I was part of athletic programs in town throughout the week and got to socialize a lot."
In Davis' case, home school became a case study for family sacrifice. He noticed early on that his mother, Lisa, could have worked for extra income but stayed at home to protect Davis from what he calls “not the greatest neighborhood” in Maryland's Prince George's County.
Lisa was the teacher to all three Davis children for at least a few years. Sean Davis got involved in sports at an early age, and his local football prowess landed him a full-ride scholarship at the Maret School in Washington. That moved Davis from Prince George's but forced Lisa to drive 90 minutes to and from school every day. "No nails, no hair," Lisa told WUSA-9 in D.C. for a pre-draft feature on the family. "Just gas, food, shelter."
His father, Sean Sr., worked jobs as a Safeway bakery manager and a coffee truck driver while undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. His dad has been in remission for more than a year.
Davis won't lose admiration for his parents any time soon.
“We have a really solid family structure,” Davis said. “My parents are extremely hard workers that will do anything for the betterment of our family. For them to sacrifice for us is a tremendous blessing.”
Davis had no reservations about leaving home school to start ninth grade. He was finally playing high school football, a 5-foot-8 scatback who eventually grew into a 6-foot-1, 203-pound safety.
Now, as Davis packs up for Steelers rookie minicamp, he can cover his own gas. He's got his family covered, too.
“I’m lucky. A lot of families don’t have what we have,” he said.
Davis has learned through family Bible study sessions to be patient in all circumstances. That's why he's taking his new job as it comes, starting with the first minicamp session Friday. After playing safety and cornerback at Maryland, Davis said he believes he can play both spots in the NFL when asked to do so, plus nickel corner.
But before he worries about that, he's checking on Dad, who underwent a minor cleanup surgery related to previous cancer treatments. Davis said Sean Sr. is fine but needs a day or two in the hospital. Dad, who still makes Davis run football-related drills for him at home, will probably remind him what he already knows about camp.
"Contribute to whatever I can do, get in the system and learn from the vets," Davis said.
Sounds as if Davis has been schooled in the Steelers way, too.