CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In reflecting on a record-setting night in Pittsburgh, Quinshad Davis would prefer to talk about the one routine play that had nothing to do with his ascension to the top of North Carolina’s record books.
Pitt had closed its deficit to 26-19 with 46 seconds remaining on a touchdown pass play, and its last gasp effort hinged on a Chris Blewitt onside kick. Davis lined up by his lonesome five yards behind the first wave of five Tar Heels intent on establishing a wall. Davis was there to field the ball, as he has been known to do throughout his Tar Heel career.
Earlier in the evening, the Gaffney, S.C. native caught a six-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 to set up a 71-yard scoring strike from Marquise Williams to Ryan Switzer, and in the process, tied the UNC school record for career receptions with 183 to move past Hakeem Nicks. Davis broke that record on the Tar Heels’ next possession, once again moving the sticks on 3rd-and-7.
Davis, who was started a team-best 41 games in his career, finished the night with three catches for 24 yards, although the final kickoff return, which yielded a three-yard gain, cemented a pivotal win in UNC’s Coastal Division chase.
On Tuesday, he didn’t hesitate in tagging the onside kick as the more important catch at Heinz Field.
“The record is here today and gone tomorrow,” Davis said. “Somebody else is going to come along and break that, but to seal the game, to keep it going to get a win in the Coastal, that’s definitely a big deal.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver has a team-high 33 catches for 352 receiving yards and a touchdown in 2015, in addition to the fourth touchdown pass of his career.
“He is the epitome of a team guy,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said earlier this season. “His No. 1 thing is to win football games.”
Records have never been a focal point for Davis. He entered his senior season needing just one touchdown reception to break the mark set by Nicks (21), yet seemed uncomfortable throughout the preseason when asked about record.
“I just want to get it out of the way so everybody would stop talking about it,” Davis said in August.
In an attempt to make that touchdown record a reality last December, assistant head coach for offense Seth Littrell called a fade route for Davis on what ended up being UNC’s final play of the Quick Lane Bowl loss to Rutgers. Davis, who had played with stress fractures in both legs throughout the season, jumped for the pass and upon landing, he felt his right leg snap.
After being carted off the field, he had surgery a day later to repair a fractured right tibia.
“He had the injury, but it never really stopped him,” junior wide receiver Mack Hollins said. “There will be times at practice when he’ll tell you that the screws are hurting. When it gets cold, your knees start hurting, but the screws will start hurting with him. He’ll say it one time and that will be the end of it and he’ll just go right back to work.
“That’s a testament to how he is as a player. He never really complains. Two weeks ago he gets hit in the ribs and is having trouble breathing, but that won’t stop him. That’s just the type of guy he is.”
Davis eventually broke the career touchdown record against Illinois on Sept. 19. He currently ranks fourth all-time in career receiving yards (2,328), trailing Nicks by 512.
“It feels like he’s been here about 20 years now, but it’s flown by, to be honest with you,” wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer said. “It’s exciting to see him break such a record that Hakeem Nicks, a great player, had. He’s given this University quite a bit. He’s been injured, played through injury, and had a lot of things he’s had to overcome. I’m just happy to see a kid that’s going to graduate and that has been a model citizen and model student to have something like that happen to him.”
It’s not as though the records fail to carry any significance to Davis. He is human and a known competitor on the football field, after all.
“It means a lot,” Davis said. “It’s always a blessing to get a record and to be honored in the record books. A lot of people are going to see that… but I’d rather have a ‘W’ any day.”