You can't keep a good man down

When the California Golden Bears take the field this Saturday against Stanford in an attempt to win their sixth straight Big Game and take away something positive from the last half of the season, they'll hope to have the services of defensive end Rulon Davis, who last left a strong impression with his dominating play in the first half of the game at Arizona State, before injuring his knee.

Although injuring a knee late in the season might give some players a reason to play it safe, call it a year, and start preparing for the following season, that wouldn't be consistent with his modus operandi.

"Never. This is what I do. I play football.  I don't quit on anything," said Davis. "Staying out for the rest of the season never crossed my mind, I'm not quitting on this season. I'm just working on what I can do to get better."

For the 6-5, 275-pound junior, it's been a frustrating season.  After having missed the last half of 2006 due to an assortment of injuries, this figured to be Davis's breakout year. The Bears' defense badly needed a pass-rusher and throughout spring and early fall practice, Davis was dominating offensive counterparts with his strength.   If the offensive tackle facing him wasn't planted properly, Davis was easily capable of sending him flying into the backfield.

Davis started off the season well before he was sidelined with a foot injury during the Louisiana Tech game that cost him the next four games.  He used that time to both understand the defense better but also work with some of the underclassmen who were new to the system. Although he was in a cast and couldn't participate in drills, it didn't dampen his enthusiasm to help his teammates.

"I try to stay active and encourage guys. I tried to help coach up the freshman and help them to see the things that I see, help them understand the plays and help them to learn," said Davis. "I'm also trying to immerse myself into everything that goes on as a player."

He returned to action when the Bears faced then #7 Arizona State in late October. Cal had just lost two nailbiters to Oregon State and UCLA and were in need of a defensive boost.  Davis was a disruptive force from the start as Cal played one of its finest quarters in jumping out to a 13-0 first quarter lead. In addition to helping stuff the run, he had a sack and a half and was well on his way towards his best game as a Bear. Yet in the aftermath of the Bears' 31-20 loss to the Sun Devils, Davis's performance was overlooked.

"Our scheme was great," said Davis, who's majoring in sociology but also has strong interests in business and African-American studies. "I was glad to be able to make a couple of plays, and I was thrilled to play a great first half. I just went out there and was trying to help the team win the game. Not winning put a damper on things."

During the game, Davis, who came to Cal from Mt. San Antonio College, where he was one of the top junior college players in the country, injured his knee.  While there are some injuries where players are simply slow to get up, it was clear by both Davis's reaction and the attention that he required before being able to leave the field that this wasn't gong to be an injury that he could easily walk off.

"It was a freak thing. I was trying to make a play, and their running back, Nance went outside and I stumbled a little," said Davis. "I shed my block, fell, got up, and got over to tackle him and I sprained my MCL."

Any time a player suffers a knee injury, the first thoughts are always the worst.

"I felt excruciating pain," said Davis.  "You've always got a rush of adrenaline during the game, but I felt enough pain that walking off the field was not going to be a possibility. I first thought, 'my gosh, my season's over.' I'd just gotten over healing from my previous injury and to hurt my MCL. I was blown away, and I was mad."

However, after having it diagnosed, it turned out his injury wasn't as bad as it seemed. With no surgery needed, but just some rest needed, Davis began setting his sights back on returning this year.  He's been able to do some running as well as participate in some drills. While there was a small chance that he'd be able to play against Washington, the longer view was to give him some extra time to recover and to play against Stanford.

For Davis, it's a chance, not just to finish the season on an encouraging note, but also a chance to show that all the hard work that he's put in during the past two years. He understands that there's a process to transform himself from being someone who can simply overpower people to someone who can understand all of the technical nuances of playing defensive end.

"As a player, I want to be able to compete at the highest level," said Davis. "What I've focused on is what I was doing wrong, made a note of what I was doing right and try to use that to cut down on my mistakes...I've learned more about recognizing formations, and understanding personnel. It's made me a better football player.  I'm looking forward for the chance to shine."

After graduating from Charter Oak High School in Covina, in 2001, Davis, as has been well-documented, spent three years in the Marines where he was an avionics technician.    Davis is thus put in the not always enviable position of being most noted for something that's in his past.  While it's certainly something that he takes pride in, nothing about the past helps him in the classroom, on the practice field, or in the middle of a game.

As one of the older players on the team, the whole process of not just getting better as a football player, but also getting used to major college football, has been a challenge. One person who's been especially helpful to Davis has been defensive line coach Ken Delgado.

"Coach Delgado has been very influential, not just in football, but also in life," said Davis. " He's not just a football coach, he's a teacher in life, and he teaches you to be a man. My first year, I was just frustrated. I wasn't doing things right, and he was telling me to not get down on myself, and just keep working on not making mistakes."

Davis unwinds from classes and football by playing video games.  Instead of opting for the sports or video music games favored by his teammates, Davis is currently working his way through Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas - the short version is that the goal of the game is to save Las Vegas from a terrorist attack, the longer version is that it involves a complex set of competencies including employing tactics to help a team where members specialize in different skills, including - per Amazon.com - "recon, heavy weapons, demolition, long range attack and electronics."

He also enjoys spending time with his family and can also be found with his teammates at one of the Hawaiian barbecue restaurants on Shattuck Avenue.

"I'll go over there with some of my Polynesian buddies or some of the other linemen," said Davis, who lauds their spirit of Ohana, or extended family. "They've got great togetherness and it really rubs off on the rest of us.  They've got a strong bond, and they've always inviting me to things. They're always considerate about other people. I've got the utmost respect for them and I'm glad they're on the team."


©Copyright 2007, TheBearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this online community and get access to the members-only content from the nationwide Insiders network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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Although injuring a knee late in the season might give some players a reason to play it safe, call it a year, and start preparing for the following season, that wouldn't be consistent with his modus operandi.

"Never. This is what I do. I play football.  I don't quit on anything," said Davis. "Staying out for the rest of the season never crossed my mind, I'm not quitting on this season. I'm just working on what I can do to get better."

For the 6-5, 275-pound junior, it's been a frustrating season.  After having missed the last half of 2006 due to an assortment of injuries, this figured to be Davis's breakout year. The Bears' defense badly needed a pass-rusher and throughout spring and early fall practice, Davis was dominating offensive counterparts with his strength.   If the offensive tackle facing him wasn't planted properly, Davis was easily capable of sending him flying into the backfield.

Davis started off the season well before he was sidelined with a foot injury during the Louisiana Tech game that cost him the next four games.  He used that time to both understand the defense better but also work with some of the underclassmen who were new to the system. Although he was in a cast and couldn't participate in drills, it didn't dampen his enthusiasm to help his teammates.

"I try to stay active and encourage guys. I tried to help coach up the freshman and help them to see the things that I see, help them understand the plays and help them to learn," said Davis. "I'm also trying to immerse myself into everything that goes on as a player."

He returned to action when the Bears faced then #7 Arizona State in late October. Cal had just lost two nailbiters to Oregon State and UCLA and were in need of a defensive boost.  Davis was a disruptive force from the start as Cal played one of its finest quarters in jumping out to a 13-0 first quarter lead. In addition to helping stuff the run, he had a sack and a half and was well on his way towards his best game as a Bear. Yet in the aftermath of the Bears' 31-20 loss to the Sun Devils, Davis's performance was overlooked.

"Our scheme was great," said Davis, who's majoring in sociology but also has strong interests in business and African-American studies. "I was glad to be able to make a couple of plays, and I was thrilled to play a great first half. I just went out there and was trying to help the team win the game. Not winning put a damper on things."

During the game, Davis, who came to Cal from Mt. San Antonio College, where he was one of the top junior college players in the country, injured his knee.  While there are some injuries where players are simply slow to get up, it was clear by both Davis's reaction and the attention that he required before being able to leave the field that this wasn't gong to be an injury that he could easily walk off.

"It was a freak thing. I was trying to make a play, and their running back, Nance went outside and I stumbled a little," said Davis. \"I shed my block, fell, got up, and got over to tackle him and I sprained my MCL."

Any time a player suffers a knee injury, the first thoughts are always the worst.

"I felt excruciating pain," said Davis.  "You've always got a rush of adrenaline during the game, but I felt enough pain that walking off the field was not going to be a possibility. I first thought, 'my gosh, my season's over.' I'd just gotten over healing from my previous injury and to hurt my MCL. I was blown away, and I was mad."

However, after having it diagnosed, it turned out his injury wasn't as bad as it seemed. With no surgery needed, but just some rest needed, Davis began setting his sights back on returning this year.  He's been able to do some running as well as participate in some drills. While there was a small chance that he'd be able to play against Washington, the longer view was to give him some extra time to recover and to play against Stanford.

For Davis, it's a chance, not just to finish the season on an encouraging note, but also a chance to show that all the hard work that he's put in during the past two years. He understands that there's a process to transform himself from being someone who can simply overpower people to someone who can understand all of the technical nuances of playing defensive end.

"As a player, I want to be able to compete at the highest level," said Davis. "What I've focused on is what I was doing wrong, made a note of what I was doing right and try to use that to cut down on my mistakes...I've learned more about recognizing formations, and understanding personnel. It's made me a better football player.  I'm looking forward for the chance to shine."

After graduating from Charter Oak High School in Covina, in 2001, Davis, as has been well-documented, spent three years in the Marines where he was an avionics technician.    Davis is thus put in the not always enviable position of being most noted for something that's in his past.  While it's certainly something that he takes pride in, nothing about the past helps him in the classroom, on the practice field, or in the middle of a game.

As one of the older players on the team, the whole process of not just getting better as a football player, but also getting used to major college football, has been a challenge. One person who's been especially helpful to Davis has been defensive line coach Ken Delgado.

"Coach Delgado has been very influential, not just in football, but also in life," said Davis. " He's not just a football coach, he's a teacher in life, and he teaches you to be a man. My first year, I was just frustrated. I wasn't doing things right, and he was telling me to not get down on myself, and just keep working on not making mistakes."

Davis unwinds from classes and football by playing video games.  Instead of opting for the sports or video music games favored by his teammates, Davis is currently working his way through Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas - the short version is that the goal of the game is to save Las Vegas from a terrorist attack, the longer version is that it involves a complex set of competencies including employing tactics to help a team where members specialize in different skills, including - per Amazon.com - "recon, heavy weapons, demolition, long range attack and electronics."

He also enjoys spending time with his family and can also be found with his teammates at one of the Hawaiian barbecue restaurants on Shattuck Avenue.

"I'll go over there with some of my Polynesian buddies or some of the other linemen," said Davis, who lauds their spirit of Ohana, or extended family. "They've got great togetherness and it really rubs off on the rest of us.  They've got a strong bond, and they've always inviting me to things. They're always considerate about other people. I've got the utmost respect for them and I'm glad they're on the team."

©Copyright 2007, TheBearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this online community and get access to the members-only content from the nationwide Insiders network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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