This year, NMSU senior tight end Alex Davis appears relaxed despite the fact he is a senior and a fourth-year starter with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. He wants to help the Aggies grab their first league title since the 1970s.
"This program has come a long way," said the Bay City, Texas native. "We've seen in get better each year and we're to a point where you have the faith that the guys beside you are talented. You know you have help all around you. "We feel very confident."
Davis came to Las Cruces to play tight end in the spring of 1999 after a potential career in baseball was cut short due to a knee injury. "I was a catcher and that's the reason I got the knee injury," Davis said. "When I was young I used to dream about playing in the big leagues." His brother Ross joined him in southern New Mexico and played his final year of high school football at Las Cruces High. He followed big brother Alex to the Aggies but, after complaining about headaches, was taken to the hospital last year.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. An operation was successful, but Ross is not able to play with the Aggies.
"He's doing really well," Alex said. "He spent the summer working at a golf course in Colorado." Now, the worst thing on Davis' mind is how to get rid of the bad taste left in the Aggies collective mouths after falling a quarter short of winning the Sun Belt Conference. "That's been with us all summer," he said. "We know we were close and we know what we want this year."
The 6-foot-4, 239-pound senior has started 33 of 35 games the past three seasons including 32 in a row. He snared a career-high 12 passes last year and tight ends coach Kendall Blackburn pulled no punches when he talked about expectations for the player.
"He's a three-year starter, I expect something special," Blackburn said. "My expectations for Alex are very high. My expectations for all the tight ends are very high, actually." The rest of the corps is made up of a pair of former LCHS Bulldawgs in Dustin Ditmore and Travis Samuel as well as Roger Brown from Andress High in El Paso.
"I'm very happy with the depth of talent we have," Blackburn said. "Everyone's healthy and ready to go. So I expect them to do really well this year."
And while blocking is always at the top of the list for any Aggie tight end, Blackburn pointed out that his players had a decent role in the passing game last year. In fact, Davis had four receptions in NMSU's second to last game of 2002 at North Texas.
Captain, my captain
NMSU enters the 2003 campaign with a pair of good quarterbacks who have starting experience. Both signal callers — junior Buck Pierce and sophomore Paul Dombrowski — have been selected as team captains. Senior linebacker Tim Patrick was also chosen as a captain.
Last year Pierce started the season as the starter behind center but was hurt twice. Dombrowski made his first collegiate start against in-state rival New Mexico and led the team to victory. Dombrowski went on to break the school rushing record for quarterbacks with 868 yards and found the end zone 12 times. He also threw for 1,327 yards.
Pierce finished the year with the NMSU single-season passing efficiency record notched into his belt. He completed 64 percent of his throws and also had just one interception in 107 attempts.
Patrick played in all 12 games last year and finished fifth on the team in tackles.