Orange and red leaves on trees around campus flash across the screen. The street lights lining Ninth Street. The statue at Tiger Plaza and Memorial Student Union. Ellis Library and Jesse Hall and the historic Columns and the wooden walls of Shakespeare’s Pizza.
Eric Church’s song “Give Me Back My Hometown” fades in.
“Show me a place like this,” a voice continues as more pictures flash onto the screen. “A place that brings back memories like these.”
The rest of the 2-minute, 41-second video continues with Church’s song and voice-overs by former football players.
And as the camera pans over fans at Memorial Stadium, the words “WELCOME HOME” appear on the screen.
“We’ve missed you.”
The video — created for Missouri’s 2016 Homecoming game — is an Eichel Davis masterpiece. Davis is a digital storytelling senior at MU. He’s also a Missouri Athletics creative video intern.
He’s otherwise known as the “Mizzou hype man.”
You might recognize some of his videos from various MU Athletics social media accounts.
“(Eichel Davis) showed me a week earlier the hype video for (the Nov. 10 men’s basketball game against Iowa State),” Missouri assistant director of strategic communications Shawn Davis said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, my god. The roof is going to blow off that building.’ When it does come on, I’m looking around, and the place is going bananas. And he was kind of the hype man.”
For all the hype he creates, Eichel Davis is a calm guy who has a passion for video and sports. He uses video as a creative outlet to tell people’s stories, but there’s more to him than the videos he creates. The people who know Davis call him one of the coolest guys they know. He’s goofy, and he’s kind. He’s a right-hand man. He’s the kind of guy you call when you’re in trouble.
Davis likes to tell other people’s stories. This is his.
From weather to video
Davis grew up in St. Louis. He went to Westminster Christian Academy, also home of Missouri baseball player Brett Bond. Davis and Bond have been friends since sophomore year of high school. Bond played, and Davis was a manager.
“I wanted to play for like five seconds,” Davis said. “I’m not very athletic, if you can believe that.”
Instead of playing, Davis turned to managing and videos. But, when he came to MU, he came as a meteorology major. He switched after his first semester — a conversation with a friend sticks out as one of the reasons why.
“We were talking about what we did in high school, and I told her everything I did, and she was like, ‘Why the hell are you doing meteorology?’” Davis said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know; I like weather.’”
Davis thought about it, and he realized he needed to use his video skillset in a future job. So he switched his area of study to journalism and then digital storytelling.
He also began working as a manager for the Missouri baseball team when he arrived on campus and created videos for social media. But it wasn’t until two years later that he expanded his talents across the athletic department.
Shawn Davis, Eichel Davis’ boss while he worked on baseball content, called the student manager into his office one day in the summer of 2016. The sports information director saw potential in the soon-to-be junior, but Shawn Davis needed more proof. So, instead of strictly managing the baseball team at Taylor Stadium, he proposed that Eichel Davis come over and work with him at the Hearnes Center.
The simple meeting had turned Eichel Davis’ life around.
“I didn’t think it would impact my life for the next two years,” he said. “I guess you never know that those moments will impact your life.”
Ever since Davis joined forces with Caroline Hall — another creative video intern who works primarily with the football team — the two have been unstoppable. Davis calls Hall one of the best in the business.
Hall and Eichel Davis have changed the landscape of what Mizzou Athletics does with video on social media, Shawn Davis said.
“Wherever they go, they’re going to take that school or organization to the next level,” Shawn Davis said. “It’s like, ‘Holy cow, I hope they’re here.’ It’s like a five-star recruit, but a video kid.”
More than just a hype man
Davis has three goals:
1. Be a Division I athletic director.
2. Be an author.
3. Have a show on Netflix — preferably one of his book series coming to life.
In short: A novel-writing athletic director who just happens to have a show on Netflix.
“It sounds cool, doesn’t it?” he said.
Davis likes people — it’s why he likes to tell their stories through video. He calls himself “people-centric,” and he notices that Missouri football coach Barry Odom and athletic director Jim Sterk are people-centric, too. It’s how Davis hopes he’ll run his athletic department one day.
“People first,” Davis said. “People, stories, relationships — that’s how it should be run. The best businesses, the institutions that last, are the ones that are built on people.”
He does have one more overarching, people-centric, goal: Make the world a better place.
He wants to accomplish Goals 1 through 3, but he wants it done the right way. He calls himself a social warrior.
“Always being a nice person, treating every person with empathy, because every person deserves empathy,” Davis said. “It’s the thing that every person should demand from anyone: the ability to be seen as a human being.”
Ask anyone who knows Davis, though, and they would probably say he’s made the world a better place already.
Senior Matt Berler, an infielder for the Missouri baseball team, met Davis in August of 2016. They were next-door neighbors after Berler transferred from Meridian Community College. Once strangers, the two now have a tradition of going out to eat every Sunday night to catch up, no matter how busy they might be.
“He’s like my second guardian,” Berler said. “He’s my spell check. He’s the guy I’m going to bounce ideas off of. He’s the constant rock that points me in the right direction.”
His second goal — being an author — is already on its way to being checked off the list.
The only time Davis ever got in trouble in high school was when he was writing a book and he wasn’t supposed to be. He calls it his pastime — when he’s not working for the athletic department, at a sporting event, in class or watching TV, he’s writing.
Right now, he’s working on novel No. 10. Each installment of his latest series, called “The Varsity,” is around 300 pages. It’s an intricate storyline — one he thinks could be perfect for a Netflix series — but you won’t find any spoilers here.
“You build worlds in sports, but you never build worlds in sports like this, where you legit come up with your own mythology,” Davis said.
He publishes his books through LuLu, an online self-publishing site, and creates his own cover art. You can buy the novels on his website, which features his blog, his videos and his other projects. The Eichel Davis hub, as he calls it.
Davis is thoughtful and passionate. He’s a quiet person at first, but when he starts to open up, you can’t get him to stop. He’ll talk about anything — race, baseball, film, even shoes.
He really likes shoes. His mother called him the worst dresser when he was little, but he’s developed his own style while at college. His customized Nikes are Missouri colors, and they just happen to have Davis’ nickname on the back of them: “Eich Daddy.”
He’s not sure where the nickname came from, but he said it was most likely the baseball team. Now, he’s accepted the nickname.
“I’m a person that likes to have fun,” Davis said. “So I bought shoes that say, ‘Eich Daddy.’ I’ve learned to just accept it. It happens. Everyone has nicknames.”
Idea, concept, story
You might have heard Davis’ name — maybe just “Eichel” — being chanted at Missouri sporting events.
It’s usually the Missouri baseball players cheering on their biggest fan. The players are probably Davis’ biggest fans, too.
“I know he gets embarrassed of us,” Berler said. “He always looks around and gets the biggest grin. He’s trying to be all professional, but he can’t keep it in.”
Berler’s favorite video Davis has created — besides the ones of Berler himself, of course — is the Missouri basketball hype video ahead of the season opener against Iowa State. It was the proudest Berler had ever been of his friend, as a sold-out Mizzou Arena — 15,061 people — watched Davis’ creation on the video board just before the game started.
That video threw Davis into the spotlight.
“I didn’t think much of it, but little did I know I was about to step into a new world of notoriety at Mizzou,” Davis said. “It’s fun having people know who you are in a place you love so much.”
So, how does it all come together? It seems like magic watching it, but it’s countless hours of staring at a computer screen for Davis.
He has a big Mac computer at the Hearnes Center, where he does most of his work. He uses Final Cut Pro — he’s not an Adobe Premiere guy, yet.
Sometimes, he’ll work in a conference room at Taylor Stadium with his laptop. Around pictures of Max Scherzer, Ian Kinsler and Rob Zastryzny, Missouri baseball coach Steve Bieser does some recruiting at the same table.
Where the “culture of excellence happens,” Davis said.
Every video has to have an idea, story or concept behind it before Davis can start. Music is next, to set the tone of the video. Davis lets the music dictate how everything flows together. Once the song or songs are chosen, he films what he can ... or he goes to the Missouri athletic video archives to find what he needs.
Each season of each sport has its own style, something that he tries to keep consistent throughout all the hype videos he’s made. This baseball season, look for the “M.”
“If you’re just like everyone else, then why does it matter?” Davis said.
His general rule: Every 30 seconds of the video is about 45 minutes to an hour of work. The basketball video was an exception, because he had to search through video archives. It took about 10 hours.
Davis lets his passion and love for athletics and video guide him as he does his thing. If it gets him excited, it’ll get other people excited.
Excitement is what it’s all about, but the creative video interns must also bridge the gap between Missouri athletes and the fan community.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Missouri football’s new catchphrase — “Keep It Rollin’” — that it adopted after its win over Idaho and kept through its six-game win streak.
Offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton coined it, Odom used it and Davis and Hall brought it to the community. Davis said the duo prides itself on being able to take Odom’s messages to the team to heart like the players do. Everything the head coach says resonates with Davis.
“It’s a simple message, but it’s one that we needed,” Pendleton said. “And it’s cool that (Davis) recognized that. That’s just his mind working alongside ours, to promote that message to our fan base and those that support us.”
Davis spends a good amount of time in the locker room with the football team. He sees himself as its voice, and he wants fans to buy into the message Odom is preaching.
Berler has high praise for Davis’ ability to reach the fans. Davis is able to communicate to the community exactly who the baseball players are.
“His reach to the fans is the reason why Mizzou baseball is starting to become what it used to be,” Berler said. “When the fans understand who we are, it’s easier for them to come out and watch us.”
Davis loves the University of Missouri. It’s evident in his work. St. Louis and Columbia are his two homes that have shaped who he is. He admits it: Home is a place he likes way too much.
But he’s able to use that passion in his videos to make other people who love home so much feel something great.
So Missouri fans, students and alumni can feel a flood of memories rush through them when they hear, “Columbia, Missouri.”
Supervising editors are Brooks Holton and Pete Bland.