Shortly after halftime of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Auburn 10 days ago...

Shortly after halftime of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Auburn 10 days ago, James Davis quietly emerged from the locker room and moved slowly towards the tunnel leading to the football field.

He walked to the goal line and turned around to wave goodbye.

At the time, it seemed like a harmless gesture.

Looking back, it was his way of saying goodbye to Clemson University and its fans.

For almost five minutes, Davis held his hand in the air, looking up towards the seats, almost to say, "This is it. This will be my last half in a Clemson uniform. Enjoy it while you can guys because no matter what happens, this will be my last run in a Clemson uniform."

Indeed it was.

With the news coming out early Wednesday evening Davis would forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, a feeling of mixed emotions encompassed the Clemson fan base. How could James leave when so much talent is coming back in 2008? What is he thinking passing up the millions of dollars he could make next year?

But not me. Not at all.

I wish James Davis nothing but the best.

I may not know J.D. as well as many people, but I know enough to tell you he goes down in my book as of one of my favorite athletes of all time, regardless of team or sport.

I first met James in February 2005 for a photo shoot for our magazine. I traveled down to Douglass High School in metro-Atlanta on a cold February morning to take pictures of him in a Clemson jersey a few days after signing day.

It didn't matter the circumstance, J.D. showed up. Always.
Once I arrived, I found James to be one of the easiest players to ever have a conversation with. We first met in the cafeteria and I showed him the Clemson jersey with the No. 1 on it and flashed his million dollar smile and asked me, "Can I wear this?"

I told him that he could for the photo shoot, but I had to take back with me afterwards.

He grabbed that jersey and took it over to show some of his teammates, many of which had already signed at schools like Georgia or Florida.

He said with pride, "You see this? This is it right here. This is where you want to be."

We left the cafeteria and moved out to the football field where I spoke with him and his head coach for well over an hour before snapping 100 or so pictures to complete my work.

I left that day thinking, "this is a kid with a bright future."

I was right.

But what I didn't know is that James Davis would exceed my expectations in his three years at Clemson- both on the field and off.

He will leave Clemson as a two-time All-ACC selection and second in school history in rushing yards with 3,130, trailing only Raymond Preister. He scored 38 career touchdowns, including 36 rushing, which makes him second in school history in both categories to Travis Zachery, who played from 1998-01.

Had James played four years, he would have shattered every major rushing and scoring statistic held by Clemson's Sports Information department.

Off the field, I can think back to the 50 plus interview requests I made for J.D. during his career at Clemson. Some of those were for the radio, while others were for print, but each time he was more than happy to oblige- even if it was after an incredible win or a painful loss.

It didn't matter the circumstance, J.D. showed up. Always.

I remember at one point earlier this season, we wrapped up a quick four-minute interview for our morning show and once I turned the microphone off, he looked at me and said, "You know what? I'm finally getting the hang of this."

I told him he was right. "You're an old pro at this now."

All he did was laugh and flash his million dollar smile and head back to the locker room.

In the span of just three years I watched Davis grow from a high school boy many of us were years ago, to a man who is about to make his living in the National Football League.

I watched a high school star who came to school expecting immediately to be the man humbled by his first week of practice before being pushed to the brink. He then swallowed his pride and did what was right.

Just like he did throughout his career.

And all I can say is good luck J.D.

Me and the rest of 80,000 fans that watched you every Saturday afternoon for the last three years will be rooting for you. Top Stories