CANTON — Every practice brings something new to Canton quarterback Colby Haigler. There are different drills for the team to execute. There's film of the next opponent to dissect each week. Then there's head coach Robert Davis and what is quickly becoming the favorite part of the week for the football team. Haigler is learning a lot from Davis, such as how to lead a football team. Haigler's favorite part is just hearing Davis talk about life away from the field. "Man, he's just got so many stories,” Haigler said. "They're so good and so interesting. There's never a dull moment around Coach D.” At age 29, Davis has more life experiences than most people twice his age. While he's no slouch when it comes to football knowledge, it's his love of history that sets him apart from most. Davis' classroom at Canton High is a museum. A museum of artifacts from various cultures and various time periods dedicated to his great-great uncle, Dewey Bickel. Bickel didn't have a family but was an educator to people, something Davis wants to be, too. Each artifact has a story — a story Davis is never shy to tell. Pieces that range from both World Wars to the Civil War to a piece of the Roman Coliseum to stuff that is antique to kids today, such as Atari. "I want kids to love history, to have a passion for it,” Davis said. "I want them to experience history. What better way than to touch it?” Davis doesn't let his students touch any artifact on the first day of school, but then he gradually lets them touch what they want as long as they keep working hard. Davis' journey began when he was a student at Cashion High. As a freshman, Davis weighed only 100 pounds. Coaches had told him for years he was too small for football, but there was one person who believed in Davis. Former Cashion football coach D.L. Robertson watched Davis practice one time and knew he had found someone special. "His work ethic is incredible,” said Robertson, now an assistant at Cashion. "He's so driven to succeed, and nothing will stop him.” A knee injury derailed Davis' career at Central Oklahoma, and by age 23, he was both the football coach and athletic director at Goodwell High. But when his wife, Rachel, was accepted to a veterinarian school in St. Kitts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he knew football would be put on the backburner. Instead of soaking in the sun, he went to work. He learned all he could about the area. He worked as both an archeologist and safari guide. "The most interesting thing we found were chains — slave chains,” Robert Davis said. "When you think about what these chains have seen and represent, it humbles you so much.” The Davises eventually decided it was time to return to Oklahoma. He found a home in Canton. The football team has found a coach who will stick with them. The Tigers went 9-1 in Davis' first year as coach in 2005. It was the program's first winning season since 1983. "He's like part of the family, like a big brother,” Haigler said. "Sometimes it feels like he has more energy than us. Maybe it's what he eats. He's a big inspiration.” More than an inspiration, Davis is a storyteller. After telling various stories for years to students, he's finally starting to put a pen to paper. His first children's book, Hoobachoo, is slated for release later this year. Davis is not concerned about the success of the book, because he said the most important thing about the project was that he did it. "I really wasn't into history that much until I met him,” Rachel Davis said. "I look at some of the things he brings home, and all I see is clutter. But then he'll go into the background of the artifact, and it can change my mind.” Robert Davis said he doesn't plan on staying in coaching forever. His passion is writing, and he has many other book ideas he wants to pursue. "We look at him, and we're proud to say there is a Cashion graduate,” Robertson said.
Collectables and discovered artifacts from around the world dot Robert Davis' classroom. by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman