The Arkansas junior linebacker wasn't in the mood to hang out with his teammates or joke around like usual. He kept to himself a lot. Even his close friends knew something was wrong.
"You could just tell he wasn't the same," said Arkansas defensive end Adrian Davis, who's not related to the outside linebacker.
After starting only one game as a sophomore last year, Wendel Davis had hopes of developing into a playmaker in 2008, someone who could help shore up Arkansas' linebacker position.
Instead, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the winter, missed all of spring practice and spent the summer rehabilitating his knee. And just when it seemed matters couldn't get much worse, Davis became involved in a fight, broke his hand and was arrested on a felony charge.
With his personal life and football career spiraling out of control, Davis fell into a funk that he only snapped out of only recently.
"I really got to a stage where I wasn't very social, didn't go out very much. I've never really been in the situation before, so it was new to me," Davis said this week, publicly addressing the situation for the first time. "I didn't know how to handle it.
"I had a lot of people talking to me at the same time. So I'm back on my feet. I'm back. I can see the light now, and hopefully I never go back to where I was."
Davis prides himself on his ability to motivate his teammates, but things have turned in his favor lately. The 6-foot-1, 224-pounder has recovered from the broken hand and major knee surgery.
Saturday — a day after he settled his felony charge by agreeing to a plea deal — Davis made his first start of the season. He recorded a career-high 12 tackles in a 38-7 loss to then-No. 12 Florida.
Davis is expected to make his second consecutive start at strongside linebacker at 4 p.m. Saturday at No. 20 Auburn.
"He's shown a lot of perseverance, really from the day that he hurt his knee when we were doing winter conditioning, when he just planted (his leg) and had the injury," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "It's a tough deal. I know he was down about that.
"He worked extremely hard to rehab (his knee) and come back. Then of course, we had the incident right at the end of the summer. So then he found himself with a cast on."
The dark period for Davis began with the offseason knee injury, forcing him to miss spring drills. Perhaps hit his low point came on July 1, when he was arrested for first-degree criminal mischief after a confrontation with another man over a woman.
The incident started with a fight earlier in the day, then intensified when the other man allegedly drove his car into the back of Davis' scooter. Davis responded by punching the car, breaking his right hand.
"I learned from it. I made a very bad mistake, that's really all I have to say about that," Davis said. "I made a bad mistake."
There was talk Davis might have to redshirt this season. But he worked his way back from the knee injury and started to feel like he was at full strength while working with Arkansas' scout team.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard, running back Chip Gregory and other teammates stuck by Davis and reassured him that he needed to break out of his mood.
"He was kind of down a little bit with all the stuff he'd been through," Adrian Davis said. "But I stayed in his ear, told him work hard and we're going to need him before the season's over."
After missing the first two games of the season, Wendel Davis made a cameo in a 49-14 loss to then-No. 9 Alabama on Sept. 20. But he has had breakout performances over the past two games.
"I had a lot of goals set for this year, and I still have those goals. But I did go through a stage where I was down," Davis said. "I wasn't myself. But now I'm getting back, getting running around a little bit and I'm feeling good."
Hometown: Sweeny, Texas.
Notable: Davis was limited mostly to a backup role during his first two seasons at Arkansas, recording 20 tackles in 2006 and 39 tackles as a sophomore last season. … He didn't play in the first two games of this season and briefly got into the lineup in a 49-14 loss to Alabama. … Davis recorded seven tackles in a 52-10 loss at Texas, then had a breakout by recording a career-high 12 tackles in last Saturday's 38-7 loss to Florida.
Davis Breaks Out Of Mood And Onto Field
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