MMA names Davis new athletic director, football coach

James "Buster" Davis

James "Buster" Davis

Massanutten Military Academy is welcoming a new athletic director and head football coach just in time for the start of the fall season for high school sports.

The school announced Friday evening that James “Buster” Davis, a former linebacker who played three professional seasons in the National Football League, has been hired to fill both voids left by the impending departure of Chris Gilliland.

Gilliland, who headed the Colonels’ football program for five seasons and served as MMA’s athletic director for almost a year, said Monday that Davis was selected as his replacement and that Davis was “excited about coming here.”

“He wanted to be in control of an athletic department and he saw this as a good opportunity to advance his career and be able to make a difference with our kids,” Gilliland said. “He really enjoyed the military school atmosphere and I think for me he seems like a good fit going forward.”

Davis brings plenty of football experience to an MMA program that has seen its share of struggles in recent years. Davis played college football at Florida State University, where he earned first team All-ACC and second team All-American honors in 2006. He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2007 and spent time with Detroit, Indianapolis and Houston before leaving the NFL in 2009.

Davis’ journeyman status has continued in his coaching career – MMA will be his fifth high school coaching job since leaving the NFL. His previous stops include stints at Duval Charter School, McArthur High School, Admiral Farragut Academy and Atlantic High School, all located in Florida.

Davis held his most recent head coaching position at Atlantic High School – located in Port Orange – for six months before he stepped away last week to join MMA.

Gilliland said Davis’ prior military school experience at Admiral Farragut Academy played a factor in his hiring, as did Davis’ football background.

“With his pedigree, who he played under at Florida State and in the NFL, that definitely helped as well,” Gilliland said. “The military school thing, he understands it so it’s not going to be something that hits him in the face and he’s confused about it.”

In Gilliland’s five seasons as head football coach at MMA, the Colonels amassed a record of 13-35, including a 2-8 mark last season. The Colonels opened fall practice Monday morning and will host Quantico in the season opener on Aug. 28.

Gilliland, whose last day at MMA is Thursday, is leaving the school to join the staff at Barrie School in Silver Spring, Maryland, as the manager of development and alumni relations.

“It just seemed like it was a good fit for me professionally and a good step in a different direction. It felt right,” Gilliland said.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or

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