ACC Kickoff: Davis Ready to Lead

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Senior cornerback A.J. Davis knew what his NC State Wolfpack had to do after starting last year with a 2-4 mark entering the final stretch of the 2005 football season.

Senior cornerback A.J. Davis knew what his NC State Wolfpack had to do after starting last year with a 2-4 mark entering the final stretch of the 2005 football season.

"We knew we had to put on a show – EVERY game we knew we had to put on a show," the cornerback said yesterday at the 2006 ACC Football Kickoff. "It was kinda like … it was a rude awakening. It had to be done. We had to play great. We couldn't play good, we had to play great. We had to be polished, technically sound, every aspect of our game had to be flawless."

And, Davis says, "That's what we carried over throughout the last of the season and into the spring, and we're going to have carry that through camp into our first game, into our second game, our third game, we have to carry that throughout the whole season. It's like we have to build a tradition (off) what we did last year because that just showed a lot.

"We could have stuck our tails between our legs and gave up. We didn't. We kept fighting. We kept saying to ourselves, ‘we're good.' We had confident in our ability and we had to have confidence in ourselves because a lot of people didn't have confidence in us – we had to have confidence in ourselves and that's one thing we have."

Obviously, anyone reading this knows the Wolfpack was 2-4 after six games last season. They had just lost at Wake to go to 0-4 in the conference and the storm clouds were again circling above Chuck Amato's head. But then came a 4-1 regular-season finish – including that win at Florida State -- that produced a bowl game, which then produced a win and a 7-5 final record.

Nothing great. In fact, many feel State has underachieved the past two seasons – especially given all then talent of defense. Now, the Wolfpack has been hit with the loss of six NFL draft picks, three of them going in the first round. They aren't expected to be anyone's favorite when the ACC media poll comes out today.

"It starts with the seniors."

"It starts with the seniors," Davis says of what it will take to make things better than the combined 11-11 past two regular seasons. "Leadership – one thing is leadership. We're learning how to do that."

And with Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and John McCargo going in the first round and Stephen Tulloch and Marcus Hudson following later in the draft, there's a changing of the guard on the defense – and Davis is now a senior leader.

"He's pretty special," says teammate Leroy Harris. "I came in with A.J. We were roommates our freshman year at the dorm. He's a special player – we're going to rely heavily on him this year.

"Being a veteran guy on the corner in the secondary, we have a minimum amount of seniors. We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen that actually played last year but he's going to be the leader for those guys. They're going to look for him to do a lot for them – to be our lock-down corner for us this year."

Davis is ready for the task.

"It's a great opportunity to get your name out there," he says of the new leadership role. "Following those guys, if you play good, you're going to be All-American, you're going be All-Conference, you're going to get those accolades that you deserve. So it's just a great opportunity – it's probably one of the best opportunities... following (guys) like that.

"It's special, but football's football. You gotta play. If we could talk this game out, we'd all be All-Americans. You gotta play."

And he sees no reason the Wolfpack can't play well – as long as everyone does his job, and even a little more.

"Everything rolls downhill – starts from the top and rolls downhill," he said. "Now we're starting in the mind frame that we can be the best – there's no reason we shouldn't be a national contender. If you look at the draft, we have some great athletes, we should have been up there, but shoulda, coulda, woulda, we didn't. So this year, we gotta do it. We can't talk about it. It's good to talk about it but you gotta do it.

"There's two types of people in this world – there's talkers and producers. We have to be producers."

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