CHEYENNE – Football was the easy part of adjusting to life in the United States for Joe Davis.

“I moved from sea level, and it’s 6,000 feet here,” said the Cheyenne Central junior, who spent the first 15 years of his life in Okinawa, Japan. “I was still getting used to the elevation when we started football practice last fall. It’s a lot harder to breathe up here.”

Central’s student population also is double that of the school he attended in Japan. But football offered something familiar.

“I played on the Air Force base where I went to high school,” he said. “So, I grew up with football. My dad and brother both played football.”

Davis’ team at Kadena Air Force Base would play against the school from Camp Foster Marine Corps Base and Kubasaki High, which is run by the U.S. Department of Defense. Davis’ team even would fly to mainland Japan for games.

“I knew pretty much all the fundamentals and terminology,” Davis said. “The coaches in Japan were Americans who played football. They were terrific.

“Football here is a lot more physical. It’s a lot more violent, and a lot more work.”

Davis’ grandfather was stationed in Okinawa during his time in the Air Force. Davis’ parents met in Japan.

The 6-foot-3, 340-pounder made 15 tackles in limited playing time during his first season with Central. Eight of those were solo stops.

Davis posted eight tackles in the Indians’ season-opening 44-0 loss at Thunder Basin last week.

“He is going to be – both literally and figuratively – a big part of what we do,” second-year Central coach Mike Apodaca said. “He is still learning the game in terms of technique, and we also have to get him to understand how dominant he can be.

“Once that clicks, it’s going to be game on for him. If he can control the line of scrimmage, that frees up our linebackers.”

Understanding his role in Central’s gap-control defense is what is keeping him from being more of a force, Apodaca added.

“He is learning that not every play is the same and how to react to them,” the coach said. “The more comfortable he gets, the less he thinks. When he just starts playing, he can be really dominant.”

Davis knows there are areas where he needs to improve, and he said he is working to address those deficiencies.

“I have to get better with my hands and staying low on the defensive line,” he said. “I just have to keep working hard and training.”

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137.

Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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