Davis Battling for a Roster Spot

The great Tom Petty once said so eloquently in song that the waiting is the hardest part.

That mantra is applicable for former NC State defensive back A.J. Davis, who has spent time on five different NFL practice squads since being a fourth-round pick of Detroit in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Now a member of the Houston Texans, Davis is joined in the Bayou City by two fellow Wolfpack alums in rookie tight end Anthony Hill and star defensive end Mario Williams.

Davis joined the Texans last December on their practice squad, making them the fourth different team he had received a paycheck from in 2008. While the often nomadic lifestyle of an NFL player can be enough to weigh on even the toughest individuals, A.J. has remained undeterred and focused. Right after the end of last season, his incredible perseverance was rewarded when Houston signed him to a two-year contract.

Pack Pride recently caught up with him from training camp and here's what he had to say.

"You're doing something special."

"I miss NC State and a lot of things from there," Davis said. "Now there are different age groups of teammates here. You've got teammates that are 38-years-old, so you kind of miss that locker room feeling that you used to get in college. It's been fun. I had a great time at NC State and try to get there as much as I can."

The former Wolfpack defensive back carries some fond memories from his stay in Raleigh.

"Those Thursday night games, we would have to go down to Florida State, they would come to us or something like that (are my favorites)," he said. "We won big games like that and those are memories that I will cherish forever, going down to Tallahassee and winning and playing with the guys that I play with. A lot of them are in the NFL. I made friendships that will last forever."

Davis also remembers those rivalry games with North Carolina, which have recently taken on added meaning.

"The rivalry games were great," he said. "It's funny because my little brother goes to Carolina now. So when they play, we have to get that trash talking going. When I played against Carolina, I really had a chip on my shoulder from all the recruiting and then, I had family that had gone there. Those rivalry games were special."

When he wasn't on the gridiron or in the classroom, he also found time to run a little track at NC State, an activity Davis has participated in for a number of years.

"Oh yeah, I miss running track," he said. "Up here, we call it track practice because our strength and conditioning coach kills us. Sometimes I miss it and sometimes I don't."

"I was raised off of track and then football was my second sport," he said. "I always had track as my backbone. In the off-season, I train like I'm getting ready for a 400-meter run. I train like a 400-meter runner would. The only difference is in track, you only have to do it one time and in football, you have to do it numerous times."

Once Davis joined the Texans last fall, fellow NC State product Williams was there to help him get acclimated, a favor the ex-Wolfpack defensive back is now returning to Hill, a fourth-round pick of the Texans in April's draft.

"It's been a blessing."

"I think it's good (to have Mario and Anthony here)," he said. "It made the transition easy for Anthony Hill having me and Mario (Williams) here. I hung out with him (Hill) every day for about two months when he first got here just helping him learn the area. He's from here but he didn't know where to live at, get dinner, rent a car or little stuff like that. Mario did the same for me when I got here. I got here the last two weeks of the season last year and he helped me out a whole lot."

Davis' time in the NFL started with the Lions, where he remained until they cut him at the end of preseason in 2007. His next employer was Cleveland, where he stuck until final cuts in 2008. Then came a one-month stint in Kansas City and two stints in Indianapolis before landing in Houston late last year. Through it all, he never lost focus and doubted that he would realize his dream of playing in the NFL.

"It's good," he said. "It's a blessing to be in the NFL and to just get a chance. I've gotten a lot of chances to play in big games. I think it's a blessing, getting to be able to do this as my job. I never would have imagined that I would be able to do this or the hours that you put in. It's been a blessing to me."

Changing teams so many times might have been tough for many players but for Davis, it was merely proof of how close he was to realizing that dream. "Just being in the league, what they tell you is once you're here, it doesn't matter who you play for," he stated. "All of it is the same. As long as you're in the league, you're doing something special. You've proven that you can play but there are different things that come up during the season but I'm not deterred.

"Sometimes something comes up or I'll have the option to leave and then come back. I've always tried to go into the best situation."

Like many of his colleagues, A.J. wants to clear up several big misconceptions that many fans have about the life of the NFL. "I guess the glitz and the glamour (are two of the biggest misconceptions)," he said. "Not everybody is a rock star. I could walk down the street right now and nobody will think I play football. I'm a real modest person. I'm really smart with my money and I try not to spend money at all but my wife loves to spend money so that makes it hard."

"Other than that, I think that's one misconception, that we're partiers and that we do this and that," he said. "It's not like that because I'm here more than I'm at home. We work from seven in the morning to nine thirty at night.

"We really don't have time to do too much (off the field) because you have to do it all again the next day. If you are out doing stuff you have no business doing, you're not going to play well. People think that a lot of guys get in trouble by doing that but that's really not the case."

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