Ask Debray Tavarez about his skill as a football player and he’ll tell you. Without forced humility. Without deference to his elders. He’ll tell you exactly what he thinks, “Oh, I’m as raw as they come. I speak my mind.”
The Chiefs Cornerback/Wide Receiver is only 25, works as a Manager at a local restaurant and jokingly replied when asked if he had a wife or kids, “None of that rubbish. Just ain’t for me yet. (I’m) enjoying my prime years.”
In 2019, Tavares enters his fifth season in the A7FL and a turning point in his career. Debray got his start in A7FL in the Fall of 2014.
“I had just gotten back (to New Jersey) from California. I was playing (Junior College) out there, a place called Feather River up in Northern California. Dru (Andrew Pallatto) was my peewee coach when I was a young blood and reached out to me about playing in a tackle league. At first I (didn’t) know what to think of it ‘cause it was tackle and I was playing flag at the time. So I said I’d check it out and here I am a few years later.”
He remembers his first A7FL game. Playing against one of the league’s legends, “First game of fall brawl, (I lined up) against Troy (Nasir Smith) from BIC. Boy cooked me all day long, me at CB and him at WR. I knew this league was different then. Also later in the season when I went to go hit stick (Willie) Mayweather and he almost broke my shoulder and kept running. (Laughing) Wake up call.”
Fall Brawl in the A7FL is more like the pre-season. Teams assemble and play games with refs and scores, but the overwhelming majority of A7FL players relegate the Fall season to little more than pick-up games with many of the leagues’ best players either playing Semi-Pro Tackle football or resting for the spring.
Debray’s official first season, his rookie year, was the Spring of 2015.
I asked Debray when he felt the league took notice of his game.
He replied in very Debray like fashion, “I believe the league took notice of me 2015 Spring Season after I caught a TD vs. the (Baltimore) Cobras and I ran the zig-zag route and Ryan posted the video. People (took notice). Wait, vs. who did I have that int against? I don’t recall.”
“I’m a natural born WR. A7FL is the first time I ever played CB. Only became a CB for (A7FL). So I started to train for it and I’m actually pretty decent now.”
I responded honestly, “I think there are only one or two guys better at CB than you.”
To which, without hesitation and almost appearing offended, Debray remarks, “Like who?”.
His bravado is well founded. Since bursting onto the scene with that one handed touchdown early on in the 2015 season, Debray has been successful on both sides of the ball. He’s even reached the championship game 3 of his first four seasons, winning one of those contests in 2017 with the Union City Chiefs.
Taken a back, but also honestly evaluating the competition, I provided the names of the two corners: Shaune Thomas and Chicc (Amir Morris).
To Shaune, Debray’s reply, “That’s facts,” which comes as no surprise as Shaune or ST is widely regarded as the best player in A7FL history.
And to Chicc, “Chicc is a great corner. I actually enjoy playing with or against him. But I must say one thing, I’m the best one on one press coverage corner in the league and stats over the years say so too. When it comes to man to man press, not one person in this league better than me. I’ve faced all the great WRs in this league and I think they can agree too.”
His answers so in-line with a stereo typical corner’s mentality, I asked, “You sure you weren’t born a corner?”
“I don’t know man. I think I was. But something about receiver I love. The finesse of that is what I love. So you’re prime time. Give me the ball. Watch what I do with it.’”
He replied with a confident smile, “You wanna win? Put Boobie in.” Quoting the 2004 film “Friday Night Lights.” He continued, “I must say: I’m a natural born winner. That’s something not everybody possesses. Some people got talent, hard work, ethic, brains, football IQ. But some guys aren’t natural born winners.”
Seemingly a winner wherever he’s gone. From High School as a State Champion, to JUCO, and now A7FL, Debray has experienced success, especially in the win and loss columns. Which transitioned perfectly into my next line of questions.
Q: You talked about being a winner. Winning in High School. And it shows, no doubt. But let’s talk about last year with the Chiefs. What happened and how do you deal with a season like that?
A: Last year was a roller coaster. You know the saying, “If it’s too hot get out the kitchen,”? That’s what it was. It got too hot for some dudes and that pressure bust pipes.
Q: Which dudes?
A: I don’t wanna say any names but throughout the year it showed. The ones that were there every game took the heat the ones that weren’t there left the kitchen.
Q: So that’s last year. What does this year look like for you?
A: Last year built a lot of character for some folks and for others it was a realization that they actually weren’t that good. This year all I see is greatness. I train six days a week. I’m playing for The U. I’ll be playing CB and WR for them and, to be honest, I just wanna play football and if my big plays contribute to the U’s greatness then so be it. But I’m just a role player this year. Wherever I’m needed, I’ll rise to the occasion.
I ended our interview with, “Well, we’ll certainly be gunning for you.”
The Spring of 2019 will not feature the 2017 Champions the Union City Chiefs. Many of those players, though will still be a big part of A7FL, one of which will be Debray Tavarez, who still supremely confident, has as winning a mentality as any player can have. Joining an already stacked roster his, “Wherever I’m needed, I’ll rise to the occasion,” not only came off to me as sincere. It also dripped with the signature charisma of a player who fully believes in his abilities but has the self awareness to embody the “Role Player” mentality.
Good luck throwing against this guy. And good luck to the teams that line up against The U in 2019.
You’re going to need it.
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