All Grown Up: Fred Davis One Year Later

Halfway through the second quarter of this past weekend's USC-Stanford game, the newest threat in USC head coach Pete Carroll's never-ending arsenal of offensive weapons emerged. A 6' 4", 250 lb. wide receiver-turned tight end named Fred Davis caught a 19-yard pass from quarterback Matt Leinart, and subsequently pounded his way up the middle through two Stanford defenders into the endzone. It was Davis' first career touchdown as a Trojan.

The cheers were inordinately loud after this score, and several of Davis' teammates rushed the field to offer congratulations. That one particular touchdown Saturday night was a long time coming, a year and a half in the making, in fact, and a celebration was certainly in order.

A familiar name. A familiar face. But what a difference a year makes.

Could this really be the same guy who had difficulty making it back to school from trips home to Ohio, due in part to homesickness?

"You make mistakes, and it's up to you if you want to change them and make a difference," Davis reflects today.

Davis has approached the 2005 season reinvigorated with a different attitude, a team-first mentality, and a bulked-up frame reflective of his new position at tight end, the result of rigorous off-season work in the weight-room, increased time spent with teammates, and a general maturity that only comes with time and "lessons learned," as Davis calls it.

The five-star recruit from Toledo, who also excelled in track and basketball, was one of the biggest stars of the 2004 recruiting class. He had over 500 yards receiving, 600 yards rushing, 100 tackles and four interceptions while scoring as a wide receiver, running back, quarterback and strong safety his senior year of high school. Think a little bit Dwayne Jarrett, a little bit LenDale White.

The State of Ohio whipped itself into a frenzy when the Rogers High School standout dropped out of sight in January 2004, only to surface days later as a newly enrolled freshman at USC, another out-of-state recruiting coup for Carroll and Co.

While the recruiting process for a five-star recruit is every high school athlete's dream, the adjustment to college, particularly in a different stage, and playing ball at a higher level is another matter.

Davis went from being the big fish in a little pond to just another high school and Parade All-American on a team overflowing with every high school's big fish. The homesickness and reduced playing time, combined with the fact that other schools continued to pursue Davis, led to rumors circulating about his possible transfer to Ohio State, the school where he had all but been pre-ordained to attend, and at this point may have even been the number one option.

Thankfully, to the delight of Trojan fans everywhere, Davis remained at USC: "I came out here to play for the Trojans and get a good education... I am not a quitter."

Next followed a position change to tight end, at Davis' own request, because he wanted to help out the team in any way he could: "Last year, I think I was thinking about myself more than thinking about the team. This year I am way more team oriented."

One important aspect that has helped sustain Davis through his trials and tribulations is his faith in God. From his mom and dad encouraging him to pray on the weighty decision he faced when deciding whether to attend USC, Ohio State or Miami, to his little brother who prays for him by touching the #83 figure on the screen of EA Sports' NCAA Football 2006, faith is an important part of Davis' life.

Davis' rejuvenated spirit and undeniable talent have conveniently arrived at a time when the Trojans are battling mid-season injuries, the number and extent of which might cripple, or at least derail most other teams. Fortunately, the Trojans aren't just any other team.

Last month, Davis threw a critical block in the waning moments of the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium, springing Matt Leinart for what turned out to be the winning touchdown, and preserving the Trojans' bid for an unprecedented third consecutive National Championship. Davis, and the rest of his teammates, refused to let the Trojans lose that game: "Even when the clock ran out, I was thinking, we can't lose... I'm not leaving here until we win."

So what does the future hold for Davis? Has he wedged himself into the future starting lineup at tight end after Dominique Byrd's departure? Do All-American accolades await him down the road?

While Davis patiently awaits what future opportunities may bring him next year, at least this much is clear: he has already begun to make his mark on this season.

"Coach Carroll teaches us to take things day by day, game by game."

This newfound maturity and outlook on life is just further evidence that Davis has, indeed, grown up.


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