A year ago, quarterback Drake Davidson and wide receiver Izaiah Celestine were backups on their respective college teams just wanting a chance to show what they could do on the field.
Together at Doane this fall, the junior duo is getting that opportunity.
Davidson, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior transfer from NCAA Division II Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, has ignited the Tiger passing game by throwing for 876 yards and six touchdowns in six games. He’s been on fire the past two weeks, with 524 of those yards and five of those scores coming in wins over Hastings (37-12 at home) and at Dakota Wesleyan (38-20).
And Celestine, a Stockton, California, native who spent the past two seasons at NCAA Division III Monmouth (Illinois) College, has become his go-to receiver. For the season, the 5-10, 170-pound Celestine has used his speed to haul in a team-high 16 catches for 406 yards and three TDs.
In Doane’s three Great Plains Athletic Conference wins, Celestine has games of six catches for 139 yards against Concordia, four for 124 and a score against Dakota Wesleyan, and three for 114 and one TD vs. Hastings.
Just the kind of chemistry you’d expect from roommates who met each other for the first time when they both arrived on the Doane campus last January in time to go through spring ball.
“Being roommates, we’d go throw routes on our own last winter and I could see that Izaiah had a lot of potential and talent. It really helped with the season coming up,” Davidson said. “That roommate bond can go a long way on the field.”
Celestine’s wide receiver coach at Monmouth told him he would start as a sophomore but left before the 2018 season, and the new wide receiver coach played the guys who were ahead of him the previous season.
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Celestine’s father went to school with Doane assistant coach Mike Dixon. He contacted Dixon and got the ball rolling for his son to come to Nebraska.
Celestine never visited Doane before starting class in January. “Coach Dixon drove all the way to Illinois to get me,” he said.
It wasn’t a tough adjustment going from rural Illinois to a small town 20 miles from Lincoln. “I was used to a small town and being in cold weather from my time in Illinois,” said Celestine, who’s also become a threat as a return man with an 82-yard punt return for a TD this season. “I liked it as soon as I got here.”
For Davidson, Lincoln University “wasn’t a great fit, so I was looking to get out,” said the Moberly, Missouri, native. “As I reached out to schools, word got around. Doane needed a quarterback and reached out to my high school coach. I came up here on a visit and really liked it.”
Doane head coach Chris Bessler has been impressed with what he’s seen from both of them.
Celestine’s “big-play ability has been there the whole time, we just weren’t giving Drake enough time earlier in the season to get the ball to him,” said Bessler, whose 3-3 Tigers host Jamestown (1-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Izaiah’s an explosive player with great speed, and we’re figuring out ways to get him the ball as much as possible out in space,” Bessler said of Celestine, who runs the 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds and has track times of :10.8 in the 100-meter dash and :21.6 in the 200.
“We had some injuries in the offensive line earlier in the season, we couldn’t buy Drake any time and he got beat up in some of those games,” Bessler added. “We’ve done a better job of protecting him the last couple weeks, and he’s shown what he’s capable of in the passing game.”