By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Signs that your life may be wobbling off its axis:
You've been shot more times than Fitty Cent.
You lied to police, prompting your boss to lie about your lying.
You generate superstar skeptics, even from those highly skilled in the art of handcuff etiquette and fudging about felonies.
"C'mon man, are you for real?" asked former Cowboys star Michael Irvin, who recently found time between arrests to call Valley Ranch and express doubt about Cowboys safety Keith Davis. "How's a dude get shot in the ass? Twice?!"
Because Davis changed his story to Dallas police, refuses to talk about the details of the incident here at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California, and because there are as many witches as witnesses out on LBJ at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we may never know exactly how or why Davis got shot on July 16. But we do know this: The player who had a bullet graze his head now carries a question mark over his helmet.
There are lots of questions as the Cowboys begin preparing for the 2006 season: How long will Terrell Owens co-exist with quarterback Drew Bledsoe? Will Mike Vanderjagt bring sanity to the kicking game? Can America's Team win a playoff game for the first time since 1996?
The most intriguing, vexing riddle so far, though, is Keith Davis.
One thing's for sure: Davis is indeed Superman. In a 2003 incident at a Dallas topless bar parking lot, he was shot twice in the left elbow and once in the right hip. During the latest episode a bullet caromed off his noggin and another lodged in his upper right thigh. It's remarkable he's on the practice field in Southern California just two weeks after a 911 call that started pretty ominously:
911 Operator: Dallas 911, how can I help you?
Davis: I've been shot...in the back of the head.
While a hail of bullets would reduce us mere mortals to sucking strained squash through a straw, Davis is ignoring the memories in his head and the metal in his leg and securing his starting free safety position by hitting everything that moves and intercepting Bledsoe passes in each of camp's first two days.
"It's no big deal," Davis says of the bullet and, actually, of everything. "I don't even know it's there. If I have the surgery to get it out, it'll take like 10 minutes."
But when he's not being Clark Kent, Davis also stars as Stupidman.
After the '03 shooting, Bill Parcells promptly cut the undrafted free agent from Sam Houston State to magnify his don't-be-at-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time message. Last year at camp, the coach used Davis and his scars as a show-and-tell reminder of what happens to players who use their nights off to get their groove on. And, almost certainly, his momma slapped him with the old adage, "Nothing good ever happens after 4:59 a.m."
Nonetheless, on the night of Saturday, July 15, Davis went to a party attended by NFL players and Cowboys teammates near the intersection of LBJ and Central Expressway. And he stayed. Then he stayed some more. As he finally left and headed west on LBJ at approximately 5:10 a.m., what Davis described as a "dark blue" car pulled alongside and began firing at his pimped-out red Chevrolet Impala with 22-inch rims. His car was decorated with six bullet holes. He was struck twice. Miraculously, his passenger, 30-year-old Lajuanda Lincoln of DeSoto, was unharmed.
But as his lies dissolve into truth, Davis' image won't be so lucky.
He could've just been finishing up his paper route or buying doughnuts for Sunday school, but when questioned by police Davis instead went with "...returning from visiting family in Shreveport, Louisiana." He also said he was heading home to get ready for church. Davis lied to police about the first part, and he was in no mood to address the latter at camp when I put myself in obvious peril by standing next to him.
"You can't come up with a better question than that?" Davis said. "Man, it's over. It's water under the bridge. Instead of worrying about where I was, why don't you worry about the guys that shot me? With all the media digging for stuff, I feel like I'm a victim twice."
Davis, 27, has cool braided hair and a bubbly, electric persona. He's likable. But he's also a liar.
Says Watson, "Our detectives confirmed through witnesses that Mr. Davis was at the party. He, in fact, was not where he originally said he was. Whether or not it has any bearing on the shooting, I don't know."
What was first believed to be a carjacking now has the feel of, at the very least, road rage, and, at the very worst, what we call in the 'hood a "hit." Davis told police he didn't have any enemies. But he also failed to volunteer that over July Fourth weekend police in his hometown of Italy, Texas, were called to a disturbance at a block party he was hosting. A man who had been at Davis' party alleged he was hit in the head by a beer bottle. No big deal. No arrests. But yep, more red flags.
In his defense, Davis does regularly attend service at the Inspiring Body of Christ Church near Duncanville at the seemingly ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m. Sits in the front row with teammate Roy Williams, soaking up the gospel according to Pastor Rickie Rush.
"His recovery isn't amazing to me," says Williams, Davis' co-safety. "He's a blessed man."
On July 23, a week after the shooting, Davis was back at IBOC, dragged to the pulpit by his passionate, perplexed pastor.
"It's pathetic for people to keep focusing on where he was coming from or where he was going," Rush told the congregation. "By the grace of God he's still here with us and still playing football for the Cowboys. That should be the story."
Since he's now an impact player given a guaranteed $1.2 million signing bonus in April, Davis will not be Parcells' exterminated-for-example this summer. In fact, Parcells initially feigned ignorance that his player lied to police.
While Tom Landry never as much as tore those tags off his pillows, Parcells claims he knows nuthin' about nuthin'. Memo to Parcells: Dallas police have contacted the NFL about the shooting but still have no leads, no suspects, no motive.
Did Davis simply panic at the thought of Parcells' wrath and concoct his Shreveport story to protect his job?
"If I got shot a couple times in a couple years," says Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, "I think at the very least I'd be figuring out a new route to get home."
Says Davis, "Man, it's a cruel world out there. I'm a living example that bad things happen to good people."
Two weeks ago Davis was in intensive care. From now on, he'll be under intense scrutiny.