Freak injuries have disrupted two consecutive seasons filled with high hopes for himself and tremendous expectations from those both inside and outside the Wisconsin football program. Yet there is no hint of bitterness from tailback Anthony Davis. Much to the contrary, the normally reserved Davis was effervescent Tuesday afternoon, the first time he has spoken with the media since breaking an orbital bone in the middle of the Badgers' season opener.
"I was having bad dreams that I didn't have any interviews any more," Davis said facetiously.
Davis was all smiles Tuesday following his first full workout in three weeks. He initially returned to practice Monday, a little more than three weeks after injuring his eye in Wisconsin's first game this season.
"I just got to make the best of every situation and keep things in perspective because somewhere out there someone's got it worse than you," Davis said. "That's just been my mindset."
For the second consecutive season a probable run at the Heisman Trophy has likely been dashed. Ankle injuries last year and the broken orbital bone this year have taken Davis away from the game he loves for extended periods of time, likely costing him significant NFL dollars down the road.
This season, however, the injury have not taken away goal No. 1 on the football field: winning. Despite Davis' absence for the past three-and-a-half games, Wisconsin is 4-0 with Illinois coming to town for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday.
"We're looking to continue winning and I'm really excited about coming back on the field and helping the team be successful," Davis said.
Davis has not played since a rough landing out of bounds at the end of a 21-yard run late in the second quarter of Wisconsin's season opener versus Central Florida. The impact broke an orbital bone, impairing his vision.
He did not know how serious it was, he said, until visiting an ophthalmologist the week following the injury. For the past three weeks, he has watched his teammates perform, and the offense struggle, transforming into a pseudo assistant coach for the cadre of running backs who replaced him.
"It was just tough for me even if the offense wasn't struggling," Davis said. "I love to get out there and compete and any time you can't get out there and do what you love to do it is tough. Even if the offense wasn't struggling it still would have been tough for me."
"Anthony's very mature," offensive coordinator Brian White said. "It's been obviously very disappointing but he's handled it as well as you can handle it. It's never fun to sit and watch when you know you can be contributing and helping the team win."
Davis made good use of his time on the sideline, helping to coach younger tailbacks Booker Stanley, Jamil Walker and Chris Pressley.
"He's very good at adopting a coaching mentality and really watching in practice and during games and giving players helpful hints," White said.
Last season, recurring ankle injuries kept Davis out of all of five games and most of four others. He rushed 59 times for 414 yards and four touchdowns in the Badgers' first two games that year, then injured his ankle on his second carry in the team's third game, a 23-5 loss to UNLV. He finished with 682 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Davis ran 13 times for 78 yards before suffering the eye injury against Central Florida with three-and-a-half minutes left in the second quarter. On his 13th carry, Davis burst to the left side and into the clear before colliding violently with Golden Knight safety Travonti Johnson along Camp Randall's east sideline.
"I really didn't know what happened," Davis said. "I just thought I took a hard shot to the ground is all. I didn't know what to expect."
He still did not know, he said, until visiting a specialist at University Hospital and Clinics days after the injury.
"It was serious. When it happened the doctors told me there are certain risks and certain things you have to do to minimize these risks," said Davis, later declining to go into detail regarding the risks and precautions he was presented with. "So I just wanted to make sure that I followed everything that the doctors said and, you know, wanted to be patient with it and come back when it's time to come back.
"I was definitely frustrated. It was like, ‘wow, man, this happened so fast.' I understand things happen for a reason sometimes and sometimes you never know those reasons."
"I definitely know that this is something that I love to do," Davis said. "It's a big part of my life and I definitely appreciate it."
Davis said his vision was fine now and that he anticipated the good news he indeed received Monday, when the doctors told him he was cleared to play. He said there was no way he could have played against Penn State last Saturday. He will wear a protective visor affixed to his helmet this weekend.
"It feels good to be back," Davis said. "I really missed it and (I'm) just anxious to get back out there on the field."
Davis anxious for Saturday
Badger Nation Top Stories
Three-Point Shot: No.4 FloridaWhat are the things eighth-seed Wisconsin needs to do to beat fourth-seed Florida in the N.C.A.A. tournament Sweet 16 in New York City tonight?
Badger Nation6:25 AM
Aaron Rodgers Has Strong Love for WisconsinThis week's guest on The Sidelines with Evan Daniels podcast is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who gives his NCAA Tournament picks and discusses going from unknown…
Scout HoopsYesterday at 2:54 PM
Spring Position Preview - Tight EndsBadgerNation gives a snapshot preview of each position for Wisconsin's spring practices. Part four is the tight ends.
Badger NationYesterday at 12:58 PM
Trice's Spirits High Heading into Sweet 16His first N.C.A.A. tournament weekend was far from perfect, but freshman D'Mitrik Trice is ready to apply the learning lessons at Madison Square Garden this weekend.
Badger NationYesterday at 10:42 AM
Commitment Impact: Jack SanbornWisconsin beat out multiple Midwest programs for inside linebacker Jack Sanborn, but how big of a commitment is it for the Badgers' 2018 recruiting class? We break down the…
Badger NationYesterday at 8:52 AM