100 in 100: Dare County’s Emanuel Davis, CFL Grey cup winner

Manteo’s Emanuel Davis was a captain at East Carolina and won a Grey Cup in his final Canadian Football League season. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.

Dare County

Emanuel Davis

Davis earned his place on this list because of his performance on the football field at Manteo High School, East Carolina and the Canadian Football League. His backstory only makes his accomplishments all the more impressive.

It began at the age of 9 when the car in which he was riding was hit by a truck. He and his brother survived the accident. His father and namesake, who was driving, did not. A few years later, he was thrown out of the house by his mother’s boyfriend after she was sent to prison on a drug charge. He was taken in by the deacon of a local church, only to end up back on the street after the man died of a stroke.


Emanuel Davis‘ NFL career with the Browns never got off the ground, but he became a successful defensive back in the CFL. (Mike Roemer / AP Photo)

Davis was already a multisport star at Manteo by then. But with nowhere to go, his athletic career — not to mention his non-sports future — was thrown into doubt. That is until a volunteer assistant coach named R.V. Owens and his family stepped in. Writing their own version of the movie “The Blind Side,” the Owenses opened their home to the youngster in need. He went on to earn all-conference and all-state recognition in football, basketball and track as a state champion in the triple jump before earning a football scholarship to ECU.

A physical cornerback, Davis played in 49 games for the Pirates from 2008-11 while intercepting nine passes and making 230 tackles.

Following his college career, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns, but at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, was deemed too small for the NFL and was released. Undeterred, he headed to Canada where he played six productive seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Calgary Stampeders, twice earning all-star recognition and winning a Grey Cup championship in his final game before retiring at the end of 2018.