Lewis: 'Coach Davis is a Winner'

As Butch Davis takes the reins of the Tar Heel football program Monday, Inside Carolina had a lengthy conversation with one of Davis' former players -- Damione Lewis.

Damione Lewis was recruited to Miami by Butch Davis in 1995, red-shirted in 1996, and played four years for the Hurricanes - 1997-2000, earning first-team All-Big East honors as a defensive tackle. He was the 12th pick in the 2001 draft and is now in his sixth NFL season, playing for the Carolina Panthers.

Inside Carolina: How would you describe Butch Davis' interaction with his players?

Damione Lewis: I think he's a great player's coach. I mean he is going have them give them everything he has to make sure they are successful. And, he's going to work with them and just try to get the most out of them. I think they'll love him down there. First, I think they are probably not going to like him too much because he's going to be hard on them until he gets them playing the way he wants them to. But, it's all out of love.

IC: Some people describe Davis as a "fiery" coach. Would you agree?

DL: Yes. Yes, he is fiery. He brings a lot of emotion, especially out on the practice field. He likes to see every position out there competing their best every day. And, he demands that out of his players. But, on Saturdays, he's going be kind of quiet. He lets his position coaches do the coaching on the field on game day.

IC: He recruited you to Miami out of Texas. How did he get you out of Texas?

DL: I grew up a University of Miami fan and I really got into football around the time Jimmy Johnson was the head coach of Miami. Then I followed Davis to Dallas and he was a great defensive line coach there at Dallas and got a lot of publicity, and then became the defensive coordinator there and they did a great job on defense. Then he ended up taking the head coaching job at Miami. When he came to the house, he pretty much sold me on going to Miami then.

IC: A lot of people say he's a great recruiter. What makes him such a great recruiter when he talks to recruits?

DL: Because he's honest. He's not going to promise you anything. But, he's going to tell you that if you go out there and work hard, then the sky's the limit for you - if you do what he wants you to do out on the field - and that he's going to push you to be that type of player. If he tells you that up front when he comes out to recruit you, you know, when a guy's honest with you, and you can tell he's honest with you, it kind of makes you trust him, especially being 18 years old and, I think that's the biggest thing that he does as a recruiter.

IC: What can you tell me about Davis' defensive philosophy when he was at Miami? What did he try to accomplish on defensive?

DL: He wanted to prevent having big plays. He wants you running around on the field and hustling out there. You know, playing together and playing within the scheme of defense. He wants four guys up front that are going to be great at pass rushing and also good at playing the run. And he wants linebackers to hit down and plug up and he wants two corners that he can match man-to-man so he can put your safety down in the box. I mean, it's just basically the NFL 4-3 defense. It's basically what he's asking. Knowing that he has the experience and that knowledge on the NFL level, then he's able to apply that to the players.

IC: Some people have described his defensive philosophy as very simple – he just tries to do a few things very well. Would you describe it that way?

"He's honest. He's not going to promise you anything."
DL: Yes, especially on the college level. I never played for him in the NFL. But, on the college level, that's basically what it boils down to. I mean, he wants your playmakers to be able to make plays and not do a lot of thinking on the field. You know, to where they understand the philosophy from training camp and from spring ball and they pretty much got the philosophy on the defense down by then, so when the season starts, they just turn loose and got out there and have fun on Saturdays.

IC: When you were at Miami, how much was he involved with the defense?

DL: He was involved a lot. I mean, he jumped around pretty much. He wants to spend a little time with offense and spend time with pass rushing drills with the defensive line and offensive line, and then he'd go help out with the linebackers here and there. You know, he's was pretty much an all around coach on the practice field while he was coaching UM.

IC: On the offensive side of the ball, would you say that he pretty much picked an offensive coordinator that he had confidence in and just more or less left it up to them?

DL: I think he was involved a little bit more on the offensive end of the ball in college than maybe he was in the NFL. But, you know, the philosophy is that he wants to have a power running game and he wants to have some receivers that can run and get vertical, get them to make big plays and be able to throw more balls down field to them. He wants guys that do a great job running routes, which is what we had at UM. He wants really good tight ends. He wants, pretty much, a balanced offense. He doesn't want to be looked at as just a power running team – that all they do is run the ball. He also doesn't want to be looked at as a team that just gets down and gets 4-wide or 5-wide, just throw the ball either. You know, he wants to be able to mix it up so he can keep the defense on their heels.

IC: If you to pick one word to describe Butch Davis, what would it be?

"He's passionate about the game and you can see it in him."
DL: Umm, that's a good question. I'd say he a guy who's passionate. He's passionate about the game and you can see it in him in the way he talks and his speeches and stuff that he gives to the team. He's very passionate about doing things right. He always had this saying that "It doesn't catch up with you until it catches up with you." And, so he wants you to be completely honest with yourself and to be humble to the game and to be more of a student of the game. And, he's passionate about putting that trademark on his players.

IC: What will the players that are currently on the UNC team like about Davis the most?

DL: He's going demand everything out of them. I mean, he's going work them – he's really going work them. They are going have long, dreaded practices (laughing). I don't know they're going to like that too much at first, but as they buy into what he's trying to do and what he's trying to accomplish, when they play their first game and see how fast, how much faster they're playing and how intense that they are playing on the field, and the competitiveness when they step out one the field, it's really going strike home to them. So, they're really not going notice everything that he's trying to do probably until they get out on the field on Saturday to play their first game.

IC: You talked a little bit about some of the things he demands out of the players. When he first got to Miami, Miami had a certain kind of image and he kind of changed that whole perception down there. How does he go about enforcing discipline and insisting upon good behavior on and off the field?

DL: When you step into the facility, he is a disciplinarian – he wants you to be on time. You know, to be attentive. He wants you to be paying attention to what's going on and trying to buy into what he's telling you. You know, he's a guy that's going be kind of strict early on with about being on time and how they are practicing and the tempo of practice. That kind of just carries over to your personal life. You know what I'm saying?

IC: What sort of influence would you say Butch Davis has had on your life?

DL: I think he's had a positive influence. I know that a lot of us that came to UM, we got our work ethic from that practice field. I mean, every day you're going out there and you are busting your ass trying to do the best you can and he's pushing that out of you. We went out there and we fought every day. We went out there and just banged heads and did everything we could to get better. It started to become a habit. So, we went out there practiced and just did everything he asked us to do and to carry that into the classroom. The main thing that he's going teach them is to be competitive.

IC: You know what the reputation of North Carolina football has been in recent years. Do you have any question about whether he's going be able to bring that program all the way back ?

"They're going be a lot more competitive from this point on ... I can pretty much guarantee that."
DL: I have no question about it. I mean, he's a winner. He's going go out there and he's going do everything he can as far as recruiting and making sure his players are ready to play and putting in the scheme and his game plan. He's going have those guys ready to go. They're going be a lot more competitive from this point on than they were before, I can pretty much guarantee that.

IC: Is there anything I haven't asked you about Butch Davis that you would just like to tell me.

DL: (Laughing) He's a funny dude, man. You know, he has a little humor to him. He makes it fun around there. He demands a lot of you and he works you a lot, but he's going make it fun for the guys being out on the field. And, he's always cracking jokes, especially during stretching drills and stuff like that. But, he's a fun guy. He's a good guy. He's going be more of a father-figure for the guys coming in from out of state that don't have much family around. His door is always going to be open to players. You can go into there and talk to him about just about anything, from what's going on in your present life to just going in and watching film. He always takes time to spend with players one-on-one.

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