Mention the term "pit bull" to most people and you'll see their eyes narrow. Mothers protectively snatch children up into their arms. Mail carriers pull out a can of Mace. It's as if the animal were a salivating, two-ton monster waiting to gobble up kindergarteners like popcorn chicken at KFC.
In reality, most American Pit Bull Terriers aren't much bigger than around 55 pounds. Due to their tenacity, loyalty, fearlessness and sheer determination, the perception of pit bulls is whatever they may lack in size they make up for in ferocity.
Perception, it seems, goes a long way.
It just so happens that Domanick Davis is an active breeder of pit bulls. He has 18 dogs at home that his two brothers take care of them while he's at LSU. The pups sell from anywhere between $200-500.
"You know your dogs like you know your children," he says. Names of some of Davis' "kids" include Black Boy, Gangster, Dice and Crazy.
Not that that should be surprising. At 5-foot-10, Davis is not the biggest guy on the team — at least not in stature — but could very well be the pit bull of the Tiger squad. Despite being considered the No. 2 running back for his entire LSU career, the senior from Breaux Bridge is the Tigers' most versatile player and a formidable weapon that can be used in a multitude of ways.
"Domanick is probably one of the most versatile guys in the country," LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "We have to get him the ball because he has excellent speed, changes direction well, and if you get him against a linebacker it's hard to cover him."
As a freshman in 1999, Davis was behind senior Rondell Mealy on the depth chart at running back but garnered second-team Freshman All-American honors as a return specialist. In 2000, he backed up LaBrandon Toefield at tailback but remained dominant on special teams, ranking third in the Southeastern Conference and 25th nationally in kickoff returns.
Last year, Davis played "iron man" by starting on both offense and defense for the Tigers in addition to his punt- and kick-return duties. After a Toefield injury, Davis got the start at tailback in the Sugar Bowl and racked up 122 yards rushing and a Sugar Bowl-record four rushing touchdowns in LSU's 47-34 victory.
Davis is once again listed at second on the depth chart behind Toefield. But like his dogs back home, he's ready to sink his teeth into his job and not let go.
"You have to understand your role on the team," he says. "Everybody needs to understand their role on the team and do what they have to do. I think I'll be more involved in the offense. I'm still big on my special teams — I put that first — but I'm going to be more involved with the offense this year."
"Domanick can run out of the backfield and play like a wideout, or he can run the ball just like a tailback," Fisher says. "We'll have to use his versatility as much as possible."
It seems a waste for such potent talent to go underutilized, and many Tiger fans would relish the thought of seeing both Davis and Toefield in the backfield at the same time. Fisher acknowledges that scenario as a viable option, saying that the two-tailback set may be something he just might do this season.
"This will be our last year together," Davis said of himself and Toefield, "and we're going to try to make the best of it. If they put me and Toe in the backfield together, that'll just be twice as nice. I'm looking forward to it."
"Domanick Davis is in phenomenal shape," LSU head coach Nick Saban said. "Toe is in good shape. …Both of those guys are starters on our team. Both have proven they can be effective players for us in the past and I think they both deserve an opportunity to play. It's a little bit insignificant to me which one plays first or second, but I think both of them need to play a lot and have significant roles in what we're trying to accomplish on offense."
The fact that Davis' personality resembles his pets is just the beginning. A tattoo of one of his dogs — named B.E.T. (yes, that's Black Entertainment Television) — adorns his chest. An accomplished artist, Davis not only sketched the design for his B.E.T. tattoo, but has also drawn pictures of some of LSU's All-American players. He has been asked to draw a picture of the renovated Academic Center for Student Athletes, which he assumes will be displayed at the building.
Davis also has art on his forearms — tattooed Chiense characters representing his grandparents Gilvan and Leona. After a touchdown, Davis can be seen touching his forearms as a gesture of respect to them.
Look for Davis to pay lots of respect this coming season. With pit bull-like ferocity, you can expect him to go for the jugular every time he dons the Purple and Gold.
"It doesn't matter what I play — defense, offense, special teams — it doesn't matter," he stresses. "I just want to help the team the best that I can, do whatever I have to do. As long as I get on the field, that's all that matters.
"There's no more Rohan (Davey), there's no more Josh Reed — those boys did a great job when they were here," he continues. "We still have a lot of talented, young players that can definitely contribute. We have speed, we have strength, there's a combination of almost everything. So I'm looking forward to see what's going to happen."
Call animal control. There's a mad dog on the loose.
- Greg LaRose contributed to this story