Here you are, it's spring, you are a quarterback, and Nebraska just lost its two year starting quarterback to graduation. It's your chance to make good, do well and get some time on the field.
Oh, if it was only that simple
It is for some guys, but not junior QB Beau Davis. Well, at least not for those who hear his name
It was a fateful night, or I guess I should say for some, a frightful night, where Nebraska , under first year head coach Bill Callahan, went into Lubbock to face the high powered offense of the Red Raiders. But for Husker fans, it's not the offense of Texas Tech they remember. It was Nebraska 's offense, particularly in the second half, and at the hands of true freshman Beau Davis.
You might call Davis the lamb being led to slaughter. I guess in hindsight that could be correct. Former Husker QB coach Jay Norvell said the Huskers were looking for a spark. Well, they got it all right, but it wasn't a spark, Davis was the kindling and the result was a bonfire and the Red Raiders were the gasoline.
Since that day Davis hasn't thrown a pass in an actual game.
I grew up around horses, and the old saying about getting back on the horse right after you got bucked off – that's not a lie. You get back on, because the more you think about what happened, the worse it's likely to be for you when you eventually do it again. Davis has had over two years now to think about it – two years to try and erase it from his mind.
To an extent he's succeeded
"I've put it behind me. I mean, that was a long time ago," Davis said of his 1 for 8 performance, which resulted in four interceptions by the Red Raiders. "I just look back on it as a learning experience."
Learning experience? From that? One has to wonder what anyone could possibly learn from that.
Maybe that it can't possibly ever get any worse? "Yeah, you could say that," Davis said with a laugh. "There's no place to go but up."
Of course, the third year QB doesn't look at it like that. He tries not to look at it at all. But when you are indelibly linked to one of the most futile nights in Husker history, there really isn't much of a choice.
Since that time, what Davis decided to do was use it rather than let it get him down. "A lot of people expected me to fade off after that and leave, but I am not that kind of person," he said. "I am the kind that won't stop working at it until I am satisfied."
I guess at this point you can measure the chance of his success based on just what "satisfied" means. If it's a chance to get out there and throw just one ball complete, there's probably a pretty good chance. If it means that he wants a chance at eight more balls to erase those eight he threw in October of 2004, the chances could get a bit slimmer. That's not how Davis looks at it all. He doesn't look at where he's at, who's in front of him or who Nebraska is recruiting on the team.
The same goal he had even before he arrived in Lincoln is the one he holds to today.
"I want to start," Davis said emphatically. "I honestly don't think there is any quarterback on this team that thinks any less of their chance, because of someone else," he said. "I think I have as good of a shot as Sam (Keller) and I think Patrick (Witt) has as good of a shot as Joe (Ganz). You can't go in thinking you are playing for second place, because then that's all you will ever be. I'm not. I don't except anything less than my best."
Davis ' describes his best now as markedly different than what people saw down in Lubbock , Texas . Looking back on it now, he had to laugh at just how mentally different he's become. Just ask him how much of the offense he knew and how prepared he was when he stepped onto the field for that game. The answer would likely be shorter than the question.
"I wasn't ready to play," Davis said.
"I was young, wasn't familiar with the offense and I just didn't really know what to do. I knew why they threw me out there, and I blame myself for not being more prepared, but I really had no idea what was going on.
"When things start going like they did, all I could think of was to just try and make a throw and see if we could build from that. It just didn't work out."
While the night didn't work out, Davis said that after he got over the initial shock, things started to get better. He certainly had plenty of support from the coaches and the rest of the team. Weeks turned into months – months to years and he's been using that night ever since. Not as a reminder of what could happen, though. He uses it instead as a motivator to say that what happened wasn't you, but it's up to you to make yourself and perhaps everyone else forget.
"All I want to have is a chance to get out there and show what I can do," Davis said. "Just like any one else on this team competing for a spot, that's what I am doing too. It would be nice, though, to get out there, complete a pass or two and finally put that game behind me, because I haven't thrown a ball in a game since. I'd just like to get that thing off my chest."
I know there are some reading this who instantly think about how nice it would be to see him get in a game during garbage time, loft a few completions and everyone can applaud him as he leaves the field. Finally, the nice young man got his chance to put his demons to rest.
Davis didn't say it exactly, but he certainly implied it – that's not how he wants to get in, and that's certainly not how he wants to go out. He wants to do exactly what he wanted to do way before he ever knew where Texas Tech even was. "I want to play. I want to start. That's what I came here to do," Davis said. "I don't go to practice thinking about how all my hard work is for nothing.
"If you do that, you might as well not even be here."
When Davis goes to bed at night, he doesn't think about the Sylvester Brinkley interception. When he gets up in the morning, Fletcher Session's fumble recovery doesn't enter his mind. Certain aspects of that experience drive him, but they don't control him and haven't since that day. Davis wouldn't mind, though, if he'd get a shot to set things right.
"I want to get on the field again, because that's what I cam here to do," Davis said. "I want to start just like anyone else. But I wouldn't mind getting out there just to throw some TDs and flip this thing around. I don't think anyone would want that to be the last game they really remember."