Central Catholic Raiders Football '07

Tim Jean, Staff Photographer

Central lineman's true strength lies within

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Wednesday, November, 21 By Alan Siegel
Staff writer

His right hand is wrapped in medical tape. His left knee is in a brace. His head is finally clearing. To Central Catholic's Curtis Davis, the sprain, the torn meniscus | even the two concussions he suffered last month | are superficial. Look closer and you'll see a deeper struggle.

The senior defensive tackle has Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder defined by twitches and vocal tics. Football is one of many tools he uses to keep his life in balance.

"When I'm playing, I tend not to tic," said Davis, who is sixth on the team with 51 tackles. "I'm trying to destroy that line and get to the quarterback."

The 5-foot-10, 208-pound Bradford resident worked his way into the starting lineup this fall. Raiders coach Chuck Adamopoulos called Davis "relentless" on the field.

"He's constantly going (forward)," Adamopoulos said. "I think it's the way he deals with life."

Some days, Davis conceded, are like marathons. Class, practice, homework, plus countless moments spent trying to control his tics; it can hit harder than Lawrence Taylor in his prime.

"It's exhausting," Davis said.

When Davis is anxious or stressed, when his tics are interrupting his daily routine, he turns to the above quote by Mother Teresa. Davis knows Tourette's syndrome is difficult to control. But getting a handle on it, he said, is ultimately up to him.

"He's a plugger," Adamopoulos said. "I admire him for the courage he shows."

After all, Tourette's syndrome manifests itself every day of Davis' life. His classmates see him ticking. But if he's self-conscious, he rarely shows it.

"High school's high school," shrugged Raiders running back Mike Leavitt, Davis' wrestling partner in the winter. "But he's open about (Tourette's syndrome). He doesn't let it bother him."

Davis said he's encountered few problems in his three-plus years at Central. Openness and honesty have gone a long way toward enlightening his peers, including the football team.
"My freshman year, I didn't know how kids would respond," he said. "I figured I really wouldn't tell people. But looking back, my teammates accepted me for who I am."

'Some people just have no idea'

Years later, the encounter still makes Davis cringe.

"Hey, tic boy," a classmate said, "Go on ticking."

Davis wanted to clock the kid. But he didn't. It wasn't worth it, he figured. There's no convincing some people.

"They don't know what I have to deal with," Davis said. To Davis, the portrayal of people with Tourette's syndrome in popular culture is equally infuriating. Reality shows and movies depict them constantly spewing profanity and making obscene gestures. In reality, those symptoms (known as coprolalia and copropraxia) are rare.

"It shows me that some people just have no idea." Davis said.

Since his doctors diagnosed him at 6 years old, Davis and his family have attempted to dispel negative stereotypes. On the first day of kindergarten at Sacred Hearts School, his father Steven spoke to the class about Tourette's syndrome. Still, the early days were tough, Davis said. Once a month, his mother, Patrice, would drive him to doctor's appointments in Boston during rush hour.

As Davis grew, he got used to his daily medication, which also helps treat his Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But puberty made things trickier.

Tourette's syndrome just wasn't something he could hide from. Thus, teenage life became even more complicated. "I had to adapt," said Davis.

Wrestling, football and weight training helped him establish a routine that relieved built-up stress and anxiety. In the process, Davis turned himself into a gym rat. He can now bench press an impressive 320 pounds.

"I do not tic in the weight room," said Davis, who has two brothers, Ross (12) and Harrison (16), the Raiders' placekicker.

Davis plans on entering an amateur body building competition this winter.

"He's determined, organized and very focused," Leavitt said. "He's a great kid."

Davis is currently applying to several schools, including Westfield State and Lynn (Fla.) University. After college, Davis hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement. Admittedly, he wonders if he'll meet resistance down the road.

"Will they accept me?" he asked. And more importantly, "Will they trust me with a firearm?"

At the moment, he does not consider himself a Tourette's syndrome crusader. Not yet at least. But if people stand in the way of his professional dreams, he said, "That's when I'll start talking."

For now, he's enjoying his final week of football at Central.

"I couldn't picture myself anywhere else," Davis said. His hand, head and knee may be on the mend, but his iron-like spirit clearly cannot be broken.

What is Tourette's syndrome?

Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disorder which becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence between the ages of 2 and 15. It is defined by multiple motor and vocal tics for more than one year. The first symptoms usually are involuntary movements (tics) of the face, arms, limbs or trunk. The tics are frequent, repetitive and rapid. Several athletes who have the disorder have thrived, including former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and current United States national soccer team goalie Tim Howard.

Source: Tourette's syndrome Association, Inc.

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