He was ably abetted by his best friend, Jamaul Pennington. Everybody figured Terrell and Jamaul were cousins—especially once Jamaul went to live in Kateree's house when Jamaul's mother had some hard times. The two boys thought alike. They talked alike. They had plans. They would open a business together someday. Maybe a nightclub.
Jamaul encouraged Terrell. Terrell encouraged Jamaul. Terrell's first step was to go to summer school to improve those terrible grades. His second step was to throw himself into his junior year at Lincoln, going to the library, doing the work. The third step was...football? Sure.
He arrived late to the program at Lincoln, behind the kids who had played as freshmen and sophomores, but that was all right with him. Running back was filled? Fine. He became a 195-pound noseguard on defense. He became a kicker. Jamaul was too small to play football, 160 pounds after a good meal, but he videotaped the games, concentrating on the activities of the noseguard. Terrell and Jamaul laughed at what they saw. Football meant something again. School meant something. This had been the plan.
"Lincoln was where I always wanted to go anyway," Terrell says. "I liked the teachers. I got involved in extracurricular activities. I wrestled. I ran track. Football...."
In his senior year he got a chance to run with the ball. Boss Hogg was back in operation. He had moderate success, rushing for 700 yards on a team that made the city playoffs. He was hoping for a college scholarship, but the big-time schools weren't filling up his mailbox. His best offer, it turned out, was generated by his brother Reggie.
Reggie always had been seen as the promising athlete in the family. All of Kateree's sons had played football at some level—"I don't worry about the violence in football," Kateree says, "not compared to the violence on the streets"—and Reggie had been the most successful. He had been a running back at Morse and moved along to Long Beach State on a scholarship.
"I was walking by the coaches' office one day, and I heard them talking," Reggie says. "They were saying they were having trouble finding running backs. I told them there was a pretty good running back at Lincoln High they should take a look at. I didn't mention that he was my brother."
Reggie was the only member of the family who was not a son of Joe Davis. During one of Joe's stretches in prison Kateree had had a relationship with an older man, Ike Webb. Reggie was the product of that relationship. Reggie Webb. The Long Beach coaches went to Lincoln to look at this Terrell Davis and liked what they saw. They began recruiting him. If they noticed that the house they visited on Latimer Street looked a lot like Reggie Webb's house and that the woman they met looked a lot like Reggie Webb's mother, they never mentioned it. Kateree and Terrell also never mentioned it. Long Beach offered Terrell a scholarship.
"I remember being really happy when Terrell graduated from high school," Kateree says. "Terrell and Jamaul graduated together. Terrell was going off to Long Beach. Jamaul had enlisted in the Navy. I remember feeling they had survived. They had come through it all, and they were safe."
Terrell was redshirted his freshman year at Long Beach under veteran coach George Allen, but during his second year-after Allen died suddenly and was replaced by former NFL defensive back Willie Brown—he played a bit at running back. He even played in the same back-field with Reggie.