Two weeks into his Sioux City career, Claude Davis is already proving to be quite the addition to the Bandits’ defensive line.
Davis finished with seven total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack as Sioux City walloped Wichita 38-6 in the season opener at Tyson Events Center back on April 10.
Last week, he had four total tackles, two sacks, and two tackles for loss in Sioux City’s 33-22 road win over Omaha, an effort for which he was named the Champions Indoor Football Defensive Player of the Week.
The Bandits were on the road on Saturday night against Salina, and that game happened after The Journal's deadline.
Davis is a well-known name in the indoor football world, having made his mark over the past five years with the Sioux Falls Storm. Now, he has shifted his talents south to Sioux City, and Bandits head coach Erv Strohbeen couldn't be more thrilled.
“He’s just electric out there,” Strohbeen said. “He gets off the ball fast, and half the time the tackle is not even out of his stance before (Davis) is around him. He is a high-level player, and we are super happy to have him.”
Over the past decade, Davis has gone from being a young player prone to off-field mistakes to being a linchpin veteran presence.
He got his football start as a child, growing up in Florida.
One day, he said, his mother put both Claude and his brother into shoulder pads, and sent them into the backyard, where they did hamburger drills all summer long.
“When that got over with, I thought, 'I’m tired of hitting my brother," Davis said. "So I just took it out on other people after that.”
Davis moved from clobbering his brother to clobbering the opposition in his local youth league in Lakeland, Fla., and then at the high school level, where he finished as a First Team All-State selection his senior year at Lake Gibson High School.
He graduated high school as a four-star recruit, according to both Scout at Rivals.com.
After high school came two seasons at East Mississippi Community College, where he was a team captain and an NJCAA Pre-season First Team All-American in 2009. He then spent his final two college seasons at the University of South Florida.
Davis had just one tackle his junior season, but had 16 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, and six sacks in his senior year, after which he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets.
But before he appeared in a game, Davis and teammate Cliff Harris were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey. After his arrest, Davis was released by the Jets.
Once his time with the Jets ended, Davis bounced around for a few years in the indoor football scene. He signed with the Tampa Bay Storm, spent some time with the Nebraska Danger, and signed with the Billings Wolves, before he was traded to Sioux Falls in 2015.
Davis spent five years with the Storm, and left the organization in March of 2020, when the team tried to trade him to San Diego. With his wife, children, and day job in Sioux Falls, Davis decided to instead sign with Sioux City.
Now, a year later, Davis is finally getting a chance to take the field for Sioux City, and he is immediately making his impact felt.
Davis could be seen hyping up his teammates and jumping with joy after big plays. Davis, Ben Pister, Devon Bridges, and Randall Blash make up the tight-knit and much ballyhooed defensive line unit that has compiled seven sacks over the first two games of the season.
According to Davis, the line calls itself “Sack City.”
“We’ve got a complete defensive line,” Davis said. “I love playing with Pister and Blash and Bridges. That rotation is going to be crazy for the league.”
In the season opener against Wichita, the Bandits’ defense allowed just 76 total yards of offense to the Force on 44 plays, an average of just 1.7 yards per play. After the game, Strohbeen was nearly speechless about the performance of his defense.
“That whole defensive line, we’ve got four guys up front and I don’t know how people are going to block them,” Strohbeen said. “It’s kind of a pick your poison. We’ve had Ben and Devon Bridges for several years now, and adding Claude to that mix, they’re all three coming. There is nowhere for the quarterback to go.”
While he never did get the opportunity to play in the NFL, Davis seems at peace with where his life has led him.
Off the field these days, Davis works as the program director of a boys’ home in Sioux Falls, where he can help counsel kids and try to keep them from making some of the same mistakes that he made when he was younger.
“It’s just growing up,” Davis said. “Everything happens for a reason, and it's understanding my purpose. It took me a while coming from Florida, and being a young cat from the streets and doing a lot of different stuff. It took me awhile to grow up.”
As Davis put it, his work at the boys home has helped him find his purpose. Whether he is working with youth or bulldozing opposing quarterbacks, Davis has a lot of life lessons to share.
“That was big for me, to understand my purpose and give back,” Davis said. “I had a chance, and I was still doing boneheaded stuff as a younger cat with an opportunity. Now that I’m older, I understand it.”
“I’ve been doing it for five years. I enjoy it. You get the benefits from seeing kids transition out of there, and do better with their lives.”
At 31 years old, Davis is a wily veteran for the Bandits, but he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I’ve still got a few more years left in the tank,” Davis said.
If his first couple of weeks are any indication, those years might be a whole lot of fun to watch for his teammates, his coaches, and Bandits' fans.
“He is the kind of guy we want in Sioux City,” Strohbeen said. “He works hard at practice, and he is always joking with his teammates and keeping it light. There is never any bad blood out there. He just plays hard nosed football, and has fun with it.”
The Bandits will play their next home game on May 2, against Omaha.