Age: 20 | Hometown: Atlanta
For Chris Davis, the transition to life at Duke wasn't all that difficult when he first arrived on campus three years ago.
After attending a predominantly black public school when he was younger, Davis transferred to a private Catholic high school that mimicked the Duke environment in many ways. While others at the Marist School in Georgia stood out for their fancy cars and wealth, Davis made a name for himself as a star athlete helping guide his school to state titles in both football and baseball.
In high school, it was sports that provided him a strong network of friends that eased the transition to what he called "a new world."
So when he arrived in Durham for preseason football workouts in Summer 2004, he, unlike some of his teammates, wasn't shocked to see the lavish lifestyles of many of his Duke classmates.
"It wasn't such a big deal, so I was able to focus on the regular things-schoolwork, activities and football," he says.
That was an advantage many of his black teammates did not have. Many of them were the centers of attention at their predominantly black high schools, Davis says, and they found themselves struggling to adjust to classes in which there were only a few African Americans. At times, many of his teammates felt like they shouldn't be answering questions in class or that they weren't as smart as the people they were sitting next to.
"I know for a fact that some of my other friends, in the beginning they were like, 'I don't know if I fit in here,' but I never second-guessed myself because I had already been in a similar environment for four years."
Fitting in socially, however, has never been a problem for Davis or his teammates. "It's not an all-black or all-white football team, so we're all friends, and whether it's a white party or a black party, there's a mixed crowd there," he says. "I don't feel like there's nowhere I can't go or people I can't hang out with because of the color of my skin."
Still, Davis says there is a culture in which some people believe he and some of his black teammates don't belong at Duke, making it more difficult to succeed. Never one to take handouts, it has driven him to work even harder to prove those doubters wrong.
His accomplishments both on the football field and in the classroom have made his family back home in Georgia proud. His grandmothers tell everyone they know that their grandson is an athlete at Duke.
"When I go home and go to the dinners, and the cookouts, and the parties and things everyone is trying to meet me, and everybody is pulling me to come meet someone else," he says.
Being placed on a pedestal is something he expected, though, when Duke first began to recruit him.
"When Duke is on your list, it's a big thing-especially being African American."
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