Melvin Davis and Cheyenne Hunt sat side by side in the Georgia Tech communications office this week for an interview, two teammates and friends relishing a 4½-year ride that is about to come to an end. They are rarities in the culture of the Tech football team, walk-ons who have seen scant playing time but stuck it out through five seasons.
They were now sharing a laugh over their least favorite aspects of walk-on life. For Davis, an A-back from Morgan County High, it’s how some of his team gear is labeled. Because he shares the No. 23 jersey with linebacker Jalen Johnson, the equipment staff gives him (and others with duplicate numbers) sweatshirts and other gear printed with a three-digit number, and not 23, in order to keep it separated from Johnson’s stuff.
“It’s just bad, because you go around family and it’s like, why is there a ‘111’ on your sweats?” Davis said.
For Hunt, an offensive tackle from Effingham County High, he rues the days when scholarship players receive their stipend checks and some gripe about the electronic deposits being slow to show up in their bank accounts.
“You hear guys talk about that and you’re just sitting there, like, No, instead, I just wrote Georgia Tech a fat check,” he said. “I’m oozing money here.”
The complaints were lighthearted, and they’ve evidently been few. Davis and Hunt will be two of the 24 players who will be recognized in senior day festivities Saturday prior to the Jackets’ home game against Virginia. They won’t leave with many statistics or highlights to their name – Davis has appeared in five games in his career and Hunt just one – but they will have the respect and appreciation of teammates and coaches.
“Guys like Cheyenne and Melvin are invaluable,” coach Paul Johnson said. “People don’t get to see them play, but they’re a huge part of the team.”
Hunt has been on the offensive scout team since his first season in 2014 and has been on it ever since. Once a player is a senior, he can opt out of being on the scout team – an assignment that essentially guarantees that a player won’t be getting any regular playing time and that also can be a bruise to the ego. Realizing that his shot at the field was a longshot, Hunt chose to stay.
“I felt like it’d help the team a little more by giving good looks on the scout team,” he said. “If I were not on there, I felt like I’d be standing around a lot more, not really contributing as much.”
That Hunt is even on the team this year is highly unusual. Hunt had already earned his civil engineering degree (GPA: 3.8) in May, and walk-ons who graduate with eligibility remaining typically move on. But Hunt came back to get his master’s in civil engineering, in part because he wanted to come back for one final season. He didn’t want to have to look back and realize he’d missed out on something – maybe a special-teams role or a great bowl trip. Or just the locker-room camaraderie.
“So part of me is like, you don’t want to let down your brothers,” he said. “That’s sort of what it feels like.”
On scout team, Hunt practices against Tech defensive ends Anree Saint-Amour and Desmond Branch and gets satisfaction when pass-rush moves that they perfect on him are executed on Saturdays. It also makes him feel better.
“Because you’re like, that guy, he’s at least on scholarship and he got beat the same way I did,” Hunt said.
Davis has been with the “varsity” – starters and backups on the depth chart – the past two years at A-back after playing cornerback on the scout team for his first three years.
Like Hunt, Davis came to Tech as a preferred walk-on – he was offered a scholarship to Division II Clark Atlanta – and hoped to earn regular playing time. It happens sometimes, as has been the case with walk-ons on this roster such as offensive tackle Bailey Ivemeyer (who earned a scholarship) and kicker Shawn Davis.
But Davis’ hopes were dashed this year for good when he got hurt in the preseason, robbing him of a chance to make an impression on coaches. He has still given his teammates and coaches the gift of his levity and spirit.
“Obviously, you always want to approach everything with a positive attitude and make it fun,” he said. “You know at the end of the day, you come to play and enjoy the game and have fun. It was always me trying to have a good time and get work done at the same time.”
Johnson said that Davis holds court while the team is lined up for stretching before practice begins. Linebacker Brant Mitchell described him as a “goofball.”
“He always talks about (how) he’s the real 23 and all that,” said Jalen Johnson, who has shared that number with Davis for the past two seasons.
They’ll soon leave it behind, though. Davis will graduate in December with a business degree and hopes to be a CPA. Hunt will earn his master’s in May and will look for work with an engineering firm.
Both have played since they were children and have squeezed just about all they could out of their careers. They won the Orange Bowl in their first season and have ridden the roller coaster the past four seasons, even if the rewards of playing time never materialized.
“But even from there, I’ve loved every second about being part of the team,” Hunt said.