Forgotten Back Is Out For Yards, Not Attention

When you check in at 6-2, 228 pounds, it's hard to stay unnoticed or be overlooked.

But for Wolfpack sophomore running back Reggie Davis, it seems that's been the case early in the 2004 campaign.

With all the hubbub surrounding the hamstring injury suffered by junior T.A. McLendon and the arrival of highly touted freshmen Darrell Blackman and Bobby Washington, Davis has become the forgotten man in the NC State backfield. However, he served notice in the season opener that he would be someone defenses have to account for, rushing for 25 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

But Davis doesn't mind being the man in the background while McLendon and the rookies garner the bulk of the headlines.

"I love them, and I love to hear other guys get praise, too, because it brings all the attention on the whole unit as a squad," Davis said. "And I love the way those guys go out there and play hard, and it makes me just want to play harder, because we're all fighting for position."

It's the same position Davis was in as a true freshman a season ago. After sitting out the first eight games while heading for a redshirt, he was called into duty in the year's final five games, starting two, due to injuries in the Wolfpack running back corps. He rushed for 82 yards and a score, breaking 13 tackles on just 24 carries. Davis also added a score in the Tangerine Bowl.

His selfless act to help the cause earned him plenty of praise from coach Chuck Amato, as well as NC State's Al Michaels Award, which honors the player who puts the team before himself. Davis's strong finish to 2003 catapulted him into a very impressive offseason. After shining in the annual Red-White scrimmage, he received the Most Improved and Most Dependable Running Back awards following spring drills.

But when fall camp opened, those accomplishments were quickly forgotten as the status of McLendon and the additions of Blackman and Washington became the focus, and a hamstring injury also set Davis back. When he returned to full practices on August 24, however, Davis was singled out by Amato for his tenacity in goal-line drills. The coach said that Davis's bullish style lifted the entire team's energy at the end of demanding practices.

While those kinds of physical runs would seem to be how he separates himself from NC State's more slightly built tailbacks, Davis doesn't want to be pigeonholed as just an inside-the-tackles, goal-line back.

"I bring a little power. I might give you a little move or a move there or I might show you a little burst of speed," Davis said, smiling. "But I really see myself as I really don't know what I'm going to do when I get out here. I might want to run you over or I might want to make a move on you; it's all about a case-by-case scenario when you're in the game."

Davis used every one of his tools to become the Tallahassee Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, an honor made all the more impressive by the fact that the city in which it occurred is stocked with big-time talent right in Florida State's backyard. With his impressive size and size-15 shoes, many schools felt he would be better as a fullback or even a linebacker. While NC State doesn't use a traditional fullback in its offense, don't be surprised to see Davis line up in the same backfield as another tailback on occasion.

"Looking at it, if you pair up any two of the running backs out of the four, we're going to get the job done," Davis said. "You put me with Darrell, you put me with Bobby … people don't really know what to expect. They see a speed guy over here and a power guy over there, but you might underestimate the speed guy – he might show you power. And they might underestimate me and think, ‘Oh, he's just going to try to run me over.'

"And I'm going to hit you with a move and I'm going to be gone for a touchdown."

Davis and his backfield mates are well-aware that they have the potential and opportunity to become one of the finest in the history of the school. But he, McLendon, Blackman and Washington all know that they can't carry the offense by themselves, no matter how much talent they possess.

"If the team needs the running game to be the biggest part of the game, then that's what's going to happen," said Davis. "If they need the receiving corps to be the biggest part of it, that'll happen. But I feel like, if that's our job and that's what we have to do, we'll do it; but we also are going to need to depend on the rest of the people. Because without them, other teams are going to know that they have to stop the running game.

"So I just think the whole offense is going to be spectacular."

And while some might expect that Davis sees himself as the underdog behind more ballyhooed players, that's not the case. He knows that he simply needs to taken advantage of the opportunities that come his way to prove that he can make a big contribution to the Pack "O."

"If that was the case, I'd be being selfish," said Davis of seeking more attention. "Everybody needs their shine, and when they get their chance, they need to get out there and prove it.

"And when I get my chance," he added with a grin, "I'm going to go out there and show them that I still can do what I can do."

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