No question: Davis a gem

Senior tailback wards off injuries at twilight of Wisconsin career

TAMPA, Fla. — Five months ago Anthony Davis sat at his table during Big Ten media day in Chicago and scribbled on the back of his name card: NO ANKLE QUESTIONS

Thursday, as yet another steady stream of reporters asked the fifth-year senior tailback about his health, he joked that the appropriate attire for the occasion was back on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.

"I had a T-shirt and a baseball cap," Davis said, doing his best to keep a straight face. "I had it designed but they didn't make it down. They didn't have it ready in time for the trip."

What did Davis' fictional clothing line proclaim?


Davis certainly receives plenty of each type of question. Such has been the natural state of affairs for Davis, who is sixth on the Big Ten's all-time career rushing list with 4,597 yards, despite missing all or part of 16 games the past two years with ankle, eye and thigh injuries.

First thing's first. All indications are that Davis is 100 percent healthy for Wisconsin's matchup with Georgia in Saturday's Outback Bowl. Call it a holiday gift for the Badgers' offense, which has been remarkably more productive with Davis in the backfield.

"I hope that he leaves an imprint on the people at Wisconsin, the Badger fans, this university," offensive coordinator Brian White said. "Leaves an impression that he's a top-rate football player. Plays with reckless abandon and really plays his best football. So people will remember Anthony Davis for a great victory against Georgia."

When healthy, Davis has been practically unstoppable. Through the course of his career he has averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored 42 touchdowns.

"I see Anthony with those breakaway runs," Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez said. "He's had some great four-yard runs. But just his quickness and the way he has been able to separate once he gets in the secondary."

Davis ran for 3,021 yards and 24 touchdowns over the course of his first two seasons. Injuries, though, have shortchanged him since. So just as his 24 100-yard games dance in the mind's eye, so do images of Davis on the sidelines in street clothes.

As a result, despite Davis' 21 career games with at least 24 carries, the injuries have led to questions regarding his toughness.

"I really don't pay too much attention to it," Davis said. "As long as I know in my heart what type of player I am. As long as my teammates still believe and I believe in myself."

"You can count on him," senior receiver Darrin Charles said. "He takes…a lot of hard shots. He's been injured a little bit but that comes with the territory. Some things you just can't control."

Davis has played in seven games this season, rushing for 894 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 127.7 yards per game would lead the Big Ten if he had played enough games. In those seven contests the Badgers averaged 344 yards per game and 4.7 per play. In four games without Davis they averaged 251 yards per game and 3.6 per play.

His importance was never more clear than in the Badgers' regular season finale at Iowa when, with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line, Davis was held out of action due to a thigh injury. His replacements ran for just 40 yards on 21 carries and the Badgers garnered 186 yards total offense in the 30-7 loss.

"If he had a chance to play, he would have played. He didn't have an opportunity to play. He couldn't run," White said.

In his first two games of 2003, Davis ran for 425 yards on just 61 carries before ankle injuries impeded his progress. He finished that season with 682 yards, seven touchdowns and a gaudy 5.9 yards per carry.

Davis missed 3 ½ games early this season after breaking an orbital bone late in the first half of UW's season opener. The thigh injury, originally suffered in the first half of Wisconsin's Oct. 16 win at Purdue, kept Davis from playing for 1 ½ games and held him at less than full strength the rest of the season.

"Anthony being healthy is as good a back as we've had," Alvarez said. "No question about it. It just has been unfortunate that he has had some fluke injuries over the last two years and things that have kept him out of games. Had he been healthy he might have been able to break Ronny's records."

Instead of chasing former Badger Ron Dayne's college rushing record, though, Davis has spent the last two years just trying to stay on the field.

"There is nothing I can do to change that type of stuff," Davis said. "So it doesn't make any sense to waste any time thinking about it."

Oh captain my captain

Davis was one of four senior captains this season. Though often reserved, his sense of humor and leadership skills impressed his coaches and teammates.

"Incredibly nice person, funny guy," Charles said. "The type of guy you want to hang around."

"He's been outstanding," White said. "He's a great leader. He's been supportive. He's helped out players. When he hasn't played he's been a great leader."

Mr. Davis' classroom

Davis will likely enjoy a career in the NFL. Whenever his football playing days are done, however, he will become a teacher.

Davis is an elementary education major and has been a student teacher in the Madison Public School system the past two years.

"I taught a lot of different subjects. Math, social studies, reading and writing," Davis said.

While preparing for the NFL Draft this spring, he hopes to complete his final semester of student teaching.

"I'm going to try to look for a couple teachers who will work with me and be very flexible," said Davis, who needs six credits to graduate. "If they can, then I will student teach this semester. If not then I can still graduate. I'll be able to graduate with a degree in education but no certification."

"I'd love to teach and then eventually go to grad school for administration and run my own school one day," Davis said.

The novelty of having the Badgers' star running back as their teacher did not escape Davis' pupils.

"Every time I go to a school I just do like a signing day at the end of the semester so it's not a distraction," he said.

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