Mutual Respect

Prior to Florida's 20-13 victory at Florida State last November, a defense anchored by middle linebacker Buster Davis had never fallen victim to a team that had Dallas Baker hauling in passes and breaking tackles.

Not in Pop Warner, when Davis and the all-stars from the Port Orange league would clash with Baker and his New Smyrna boys.

Not in high school, when Davis-led Mainland took three straight meetings from Baker's Barracudas at New Smyrna Beach High.

Not in college – at least not until Baker and the Gators snapped a two-game FSU run and knocked off Davis and the Seminoles last fall.

"You know what? It was a good run," said Davis, tongue-in-cheek. "I think he still knows what time it is."

Childhood buddies who Davis says "give each other space" during the rigors of the season, the pair got a chance to catch up thanks to corresponding bye weeks last weekend. Davis and Baker took in New Smyrna's state playoff tilt with Nease on Friday; a trip to the Florida Classic – a Florida A&M overtime win against Bethune-Cookman in Orlando – was on the docket Saturday.

"Dallas is my homeboy," said Davis, who said the weekend might have marked the first time that he attended a football game and sat in the stands as a normal spectator.

"It's always good to catch up. When you don't see your best friend in so long, you reminisce about what you did in high school, what you're doing in college now."

Despite defeats to alma mater NSB and hometown B-CC, Baker says the weekend was enjoyable.

"It's good to take a little break from things, clear your head and get it right for the next week," Baker said. "It's even better when you can catch up at the same time."

Their next encounter will be Saturday afternoon at Florida Field, sometime before each starts his pre-game routine. Before every Gators-‘Noles clash, Davis and Baker have managed to find each other to impart some well wishes before the heat of the battle.

Well wishes?

"Talking smack is something that you do as a freshman," Baker explained. "You may get your momentum running wild during the game and start saying this or saying that…other than that, we've all got a mutual respect for each other as a great athletes and great football players."

That respect and his friendship with Davis prompts Baker to find Florida State football games in the television listings whenever his Gators are playing at a different time. He's not alone – quarterback/wide receiver Gavin Dickey and safety Jarvis Herring usually partake. Dickey checks in on the eight Tallahasseans that dot FSU's roster; Herring keeps an eye on safety Kyler Hall, a high school teammate of his at Live Oak.

"Coming up in the football ranks, (Davis) and I became friends," Baker said. "It's the same with Gavin and (FSU linebacker) Ernie (Sims), (corner Antonio) Cromartie and those other guys up there. It's the same with Jarvis and Kyler Hall.

"We're always checking up."

Davis does the same – that's how he knew about a rib cage injury the Baker has been working towards recovering from. The ostentatious linebacker just couldn't resist taking a shot when his buddy was in town last weekend.

"I told him that he needed to get that thing healed, so I can hurt it a little bit more," Davis grinned. "I know he'll tell you differently, but know he'll be looking for me over the middle."

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