Davis is ready to shine for Heels
By David Williams
Published in Sports on September 3, 2004 2:02 PM
Tommy Davis knows that this is his year to shine.
The six-foot-two, 257-pound defensive lineman is as excited as a schoolboy at Christmas as the days of preseason practices wind down at the University of North Carolina. On Saturday afternoon, William and Mary will line up against his Tar Heels, and Davis will finally start the season that may be a watershed in his life.
"I'm ready for Saturday," he said.
A 2001 redshirt when he came to Carolina from Southern Wayne High School, Davis has spent the last two seasons in Chapel Hill battling injuries and showing flashes of the consistent, motivated lineman he knows he can become.
Davis has been an up-and-comer since taking over at defensive end in his freshman year, starting the last five games. Last year, he played in 11 games and started five, with a season-high eight tackles and seven solos against Duke. A "Super Ram" in the Carolina weight room, Davis hold the Tar Heel records for bench (460 pounds) and squat (640) for defensive ends.
"Right now I am one of the leaders," Davis said. "Everyone looks to me to lead the team and add enthusiasm on the unit."
From a personal standpoint, Davis needs this season to be stellar to set him up in the eyes of professional scouts, a precursor to a hopeful spot in the NFL Draft of 2006.
"That's what I have to do," he said. " I am injury-free this year, and I know the game and the game plan. I have to turn loose this year to have a shot at the NFL."
But for now, Davis has just one thought on his mind.
"Do my job the best I can and help the team out," he said. "If I have a lot of tackles, I do, and if I don't, I don't. I just want to help the team in any way I can."
Davis understands that he is burdened with expectations this season. The Tar Heel defense, maligned for the last two seasons, is expected to make strides this year. Davis should be among the defensive leaders.
"Expectations -- I like that," Davis said. "It puts pressure on me so I have to do better."
Davis said he thinks the defense was missing unity last year - something that is a strength this season.
"Our attitude has improved, and our technique, and our fundamentals, too," he said. "Now we are more confident. We come to the ball, we hustle, and we work more as a unit instead of as individuals. We are more of a team now."
Personally, Davis believes he is a more sound fundamental player, and he does a better job of reading the offenses. And that is just part of the overall team improvement.
"We are faster," Davis said. "We have a lot more speed than last year. And we got a whole lot stronger along the front this year."
Offensively, Davis likes the year's seasoning Carolina had. The Tar Heels moved the ball last season with Darian Durant at quarterback and a fleet of sharp running backs. With nearly everyone back, there is no reason that success shouldn't continue.
"They did a good job last year, and they should be even better this year because they have had the time to gel," Davis said.
The communications major said he will enter television or radio when his playing days are done. But that won't be for awhile yet. For now, Davis is ready to give his all for the Kenan Stadium crowds.
"We are more focused, and we have a better attitude toward each other and the coaches and everything," Davis said.
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