Caden Davis put 54,000 miles on his car in three years as he photographed 47 states.
Only three more states to go before his 21st birthday.
The freshman defensive end has greater aspirations than making it to the NFL.
“I have Alaska, Hawaii and North Dakota [left] — the most random states,” Davis said.
While first being handed a camera around eighth grade and getting his license in 2020, the Mason, Ohio, native was either on the road, shooting photos or both. And from time to time, he could be found on the football field.
His true passion has always been looking through the lens.
“I started off with my mom’s camera, kind of using it here and there,” Davis said. “She was getting annoyed with me always taking it and using it, so she’s like, ‘Alright, we’re just gonna figure you out something.’”
For Christmas in 2019, Davis’ parents, Brad and Jennifer, got him his own camera.
In the beginning, Caden Davis spent a lot of his time taking photos of nature, his family, friends and sporting events. He said things picked up his sophomore year in high school.
“I was like, ‘Alright, I need to probably lock in on this,’” Caden Davis said. “I did sports, portraits, picked up weddings. Anything you can imagine, I was doing.”
Nearly 30 senior portraits and many other gigs later, his camera was paid off and he started buying new equipment. He shot a wedding on his own, something he said was “cool, but a hassle.”
Next came the road trips.
“As soon as he got his license, I mean, he was basically gone,” Brad Davis said. “All over the place.”
Caden Davis had a knack for road-tripping since he was eight years old, when he and his dad would do summer weekend trips for travel baseball. The two hit the road more when going from university to university for college football recruitment, Brad Davis said.
On these trips Brad Davis said his son would venture out and photograph whatever he could find.
Caden Davis took those younger days and created something bigger. He began traveling state to state in his car he nicknamed Beth, sometimes alone and other times with friends on board, like Carson Crowe.
Crowe, Caden Davis’ cousin, said he’d only been on nine or 10 of these road trips with him. He said one of their best trips together was visiting the Tennessee mountains, but he remembers him taking photos from a younger age.
“He was always doing something on his phone growing up, and on his camera, and if we went anywhere he always brought the camera with him and took pictures,” Crowe said. “Everywhere.”
Caden Davis’ brand began to grow as he found his style.
He started marketing himself and expanding his social media presence, bringing his two passions together: travel and photography.
Next thing he knew he was being flown out to California by a swimwear brand to take photos on the beach.
While in California, Caden Davis visited Yosemite National Park. His trip marked a new goal: visit every national park in the U.S.
“It was like a four-hour drive,” Caden Davis said. “I was like, ‘I don’t care, I want to go out there.’ We got there — coolest thing I’ve ever seen, best place I’ve ever been to.”
He worked his way across the country — camera in hand — until football began in June.
From a five-day road trip out west to driving to and from Florida — twice — in as many weeks, then traveling through a brutal snowstorm in Michigan, Caden Davis is taking a break from the gas station Slim Jim’s and KitKat’s during football season.
But over the summer, he took advantage of the photographic opportunities in Columbus. He still can’t be caught without a vintage digital camera hiding in his jean pocket.
“I don’t know if it’s one of mine from when I was in college, or if he found it at a thrift store,” Brad Davis said. “[He] documents what he’s doing, who he’s been with and what he’s seen.”
Caden Davis said after practice he’s wanted to attend other sporting events and shoot photos, but once he takes off the cleats he’s ready for bed. He does hope to get involved with Ohio State Athletics’ digital team while in school.
But once football season comes to a close, it is game on.
He said he plans to drive through North Dakota, meet up with some friends in Seattle and take the ferry to Alaska. After this he will have one state left to visit: Hawaii, which he hopes to visit for his 21st birthday.
After he completes his goal of reaching all 50 states before 21, in which he takes a Polaroid of himself in front of the “Welcome To” sign, his post-college dream is to hit every state in one long road trip.
Caden Davis said he has a 1980 map of the U.S. hung up in his office at home, where he pins the places he’s been and has a red string outlining his 50-state road trip.
“I can appreciate that,” Brad Davis said. “Most people don’t do that [hit 50 states] in a lifetime.”
As for what comes next, Caden Davis said he doesn’t know. He does, however, have a life goal of visiting as many countries as possible. He said he wants to be able to tell his future children that he “did it all.”
Caden Davis posts his journeys, life and photos for all to see. Whatever career brings the opportunity to photograph the world, that’s where he’s aiming.
“The end goal is being able to do what I want with photography,” Caden Davis said.
But for right now, Caden Davis can be found with his hand in the ground at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.