BARNEGAT, NJ – Barnegat High School football coach Rob Davis wants one thing to be clear. While it’s true that his team’s victory over St. John Vianney was his final game, he’s not retired. He’s stepped down for now and will one day be back on the field.
As Davis sees it, it’s just a matter of time and more of a return to physical wellbeing. He plans on doing the work to make it happen. The amount of passion he feels for the game and his players makes him unstoppable.
Two years ago, Davis survived a major scare when he suffered what’s informally known as a “widowmaker” heart attack. He needed a stent to take care of an 85 percent artery blockage.
“At that time, the doctor and my family said I was done with football,” shared Davis. “I told them that it wasn’t negotiable. I went from everything was great to finding out something was wrong with me and I’d have to give it all up in a week.”
Set on staying in the game, Davis struck what he thought was a deal with his doctor. The coach was told to lose twenty pounds – and, lost 25 for extra measure. The cardiologist also informed Davis that he needed to get his skyrocketed blood pressure under control.
“I did 30-60 days of rehabilitation at the hospital,” Davis said. “I was doing good and got cleared and told the doctor I was going back to coaching.”
Although the cardiologist told Davis he was structurally fine, the doctor held back on recommending the Barnegat coach go back to the game. The ultimate compromise was that Davis try to limit himself.
For Davis, it was a matter of closure. Although he did not want to abandon the program he founded, he planned on stepping down last year after Barnegat played Manasquan – until they lost.
“My family was upset and could not believe I went back on my word to them,” explained Davis. “I had my whole family there thinking it was my last game and shocked them all when I decided not to leave.”
This year’s season brought a new set of challenges with concerns about COVID-19. Davis saw himself as someone at high risk – but he needed to be there for his team. He tried not to think about his own health.
Perhaps it’s no strange coincidence that everything came to a head when the Barnegat team came up against Manasquan once again. Davis knew something wasn’t right and had the trainer take his blood pressure. It was so high that he had to leave the game and go to the hospital.
“It was at that moment that I realized I was done,” admitted Davis. “I’m all about family values and I knew I needed to be there for them.”
Davis concedes he has two families. His wife, Sue is a teacher in Stafford, and they have two children together, Brooke, 13 and Karen, 10. However, the Barnegat High School Football Team is just as much a part of Davis’ family.
“I got really choked up telling the kids of my decision,” Davis said. “When I said I had to step down from what they would think of as injury, they all started crying. It was a sad moment that ended with me telling them the injury would heal and that I would be alright.”
As a coach, Davis used his skills for more than just athletic achievements. True, his teams have made it to several state championships under his leadership. Also true is that Davis counts 59 of his players as going on to college football.
One of the Barnegat coach’s biggest achievements is the sense of comradery he’s instilled in the team members. It goes back to Davis’ dedication to family values for the people he considers part of his life.
“Rob has always impressed me both on and off the field,” shared Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis. “He puts so much time and energy into his student athletes and I think it’s actually closer to 70 of them have gone on to receive scholarships at the collegiate level.”
Davis already had name recognition in Southern Ocean County when he was approached to take on the head football coach position at Barnegat High School. The school was brand new at the time.
A Waretown native, Davis played for Southern Regional High School’s football team and William Paterson State College. He subsequently went on to become an assistant coach for his alma mater in the mid-nineties.
After a couple of years at Southern Regional, Davis became an assistant football coach at Lacey High School. He was just waiting to gain board approval to take on coaching the school’s baseball team when the Barnegat district insisted he meet with them.
“Dr. Thomas McMahon was the superintendent at the time,” Davis stated. “He told me that he did a lot of research on me and knew I was not a baseball guy, but a football dude.”
Davis figured he was in a position to see how badly Barnegat wanted him. He had nothing to lose and came up with a couple of demands.
“I told Dr. McMahon I wanted to bring in middle school football to the district,” explained Davis. “It hadn’t been done and we were first in the Shore Conference after he gave me the okay.”
All that was eighteen years ago. Rob Davis became Barnegat High School’s first and to date, the only Head Coach. Davis isn’t leaving the district, as he continues teaching special education classes.
“I am motivated to overcome this and get better,” David said. “I need to know that I am going to be back in the field to get me going.”
Davis plans on getting his blood pressure in check and insists that everything will be great. While he doesn’t know where he’ll ultimately land, Coach Rob Davis will be back out on the field once he’s better.
It’s just a matter of time and physical well-being.
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