When Davon McKayhan-Jones steps onto the football field for the North Carolina Coaches Association’s East-West All-Star Game next Wednesday in Greensboro, he’s not sure yet if it will be for offense, defense or special teams but the recent Hunt High graduate is ready for any of it.
“If they want to put me at D tackle, they can,” McKayhan-Jones said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Wherever I have to play, I just want to be on the field any kind of way I want to. That’s how it is.”
McKayhan-Jones is one of the 35 players on the East roster and the first Hunt player to earn an East-West selection since Malik Williams in 2014. He’s the 23rd Warrior selected for football — a list that also includes Hunt head coach Juan Jackson in 1984 – and 42nd overall for the East-West All-Star Games for football, basketball and soccer.
“First I want to thank the man above and my family and also my teammates because without them, I wouldn’t have made it here,” McKayhan-Jones said. “Every day they reminded me to get better each day on the practice field and also on Friday nights. But it all started with my teammates.”
McKayhan-Jones and his teammates took the Warriors to the 3-A Quad County Conference title, their first league crown since 2013, last fall. There was very little that McKayhan-Jones didn’t do on the field. He led Hunt receivers with 41 catches for 776 yards and 10 touchdowns. On defense, he picked off seven passes, which tied him for first among players in the NCHSAA 3-A East, and returned three for TDs. He also averaged more than 30 yards on his kick returns and also ran back one of those for a TD.
“He definitely was a huge part of our team because he is a tremendous athlete,” Hunt head coach Juan Jackson said. “And he helped us in all phases of the game as a kick returner, punt returner, defensive back, receiver — you name it, he could do it and we knew if the ball was in his hands, he was going to make a play. He’s that type of athlete. Teams tried to double- and triple-cover him and that didn’t work. So he was definitely an important part of our team. Our scheme on offense, we most definitely knew we had to put the ball in his hands because he was going to find a way to score.”
McKayhan-Jones, one of the Warriors’ basketball stars as well, has signed to play football at Winston-Salem State University, where he will also attempt to walk on the basketball team. McKayhan-Jones said that football has become his pathway.
“That comes from a kid who, at first when I got into ninth grade, I didn’t even want to play football,” he said. “I didn’t play my ninth-grade year. I was through after middle school, and I took a shot at it in 10th grade. And I got back on my feet, you know, went through my 11th-grade year. That’s when I really started taking football back to the extreme level. That was my senior year; that’s when a lot of coaches started hitting me up. But it was really a blessing though, really being able to be playing this (all-star) game because not a lot of people around here in this area get a chance to play in this game and I’m really thankful to be able to play in this game.”
McKayhan-Jones gave a “shout out” to Hunt defensive coordinator Keith Byrum for working with him to learn how to play defense in the Warriors’ system.
“I remember my 10th-grade year when I didn’t play defense at all and we were up there at Eastern Alamance (in the playoffs) and we were getting our tails beat and I asked him, ‘Coach, can I play defense?’ and he was like, ‘You just don’t know the stuff,’” McKayhan-Jones said. “So ever since he told me that, I made sure I learned enough to be out there and I told him I made sure I’d never let him down.”
McKayhan-Jones said that he’s been busy preparing his body not only for the East-West All-Star Game but also his impending college career. He said he’s grown a half inch and added 15 pounds since the end of football season and he’s now 6-foot-3.5 inches tall and 190 pounds.
“I’ve mainly been doing a lot of conditioning, preparing myself for college – not only college but also this game,” he said. “So, you know, it’s kind of hard preparing for a football game or tackling or getting tackled – and I’m not in high school. I don’t have pads so I’ve really just been lifting a lot and in all my free time, go to Planet Fitness or my own room, doing push-ups, anything that’s getting my body back in shape, especially eating right.”
The question remains where the East coaching staff, led by head coach Reggie Lucas of Wake Forest, will utilize McKayhan-Jones. Jackson believes, like the Hunt coaches, they’ll find a spot for him in all aspects of the game.
“I know they love his size as a corner,” Jackson said. “They love his size and his athleticism and speed. But you know, the same on offense. The receiver coach loves him as well. So I think in his all-star games, he’s going to be featured as a defensive back but he will return kicks and play on the offensive side of the ball.”