NFL Draft Q&A With A.J. Davis

One of the nation's top cornerbacks talked to Ed Thompson about the skills he can provide to an NFL club, his upcoming Senior Bowl appearance, whether or not he'll do a full workout at the Combine and much more in this exclusive interview with

Ed Thompson: Tell us a little bit about yourself…

A.J. Davis: I was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, and I went to school in Raleigh about ten minutes away from my home. So this experience with the NFL will be a little different because of being away from home a lot more. I was raised by my mom and my dad, I have an older sister and a younger brother who is probably going to commit to the University North Carolina on a track scholarship. My sister also ran track in college and was All-American in the 4-by-1 relay.

ET: I hear you're interested in getting a real estate license. What sparked your interest in that area?

AJD: That's definitely something I'm going to pursue. Three of my cousins are in it and they have a group called D.T. Davis Real Estate Group. A lot of it came from them talking about it; it just got my interest.

ET: Where does your interest in gospel music come from?

AJD: I was raised in the church so I have a lot of respect for it and it's an important thing in my life. I like Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin, they're probably two of my favorites.

ET: I also understand you enjoy fishing. What's your best catch to date?

AJD: Oh yeah, that's one of my main hobbies. I enjoy that a lot. I have a fishing boat up here with me while I'm working out. I usually fish for catfish and I once caught about a ten-pound catfish. That's not big for some people, but that's big where I fish; they don't really get bigger than that…it was about thirty inches long.

ET: You're very committed to reaching out to your community and the underprivileged. Tell us about some of the things you've done…

AJD: My mom worked in daycare and the place she worked at had a couple of underprivileged children in it. And Christmas time came around and I was like "I'm gonna do something. Whoever's parents can't afford a Christmas, I'm going to do it." So I saved up my money and started getting them a whole bunch of Christmas gifts; just little stuff ... I love seeing people happy, so I started doing it every Christmas. I'd "adopt" somebody and I'd say okay I'm going to go get a certain number of gifts and I make sure I spend about 100 dollars…you know something respectable so a child can have a good Christmas.

ET: That's wonderful…

AJD: Sometimes I talk to guys that are going through different things. I help my teammates who are going through different problems. A couple of times there have been kids who got in trouble … and I came in and talked to them about my experiences at college and tried to show them that it's good to go to school and listen to the teachers. I try to show them it's cool to do that type of thing, to be the smartest guy in school, to be the best athlete; it's cool to do things like that and live your life like that.

ET: Tell us how you got your nickname "Headache"...

AJD: (laughs)  A lot of people know that when I play football I'm very vocal. Every step of the game I'm saying something to somebody or the opposite team and I'm talking trash most of the time. There came a scrimmage in camp of '05 and they were hyping me up and I was saying "I'm going to hit somebody today." On the first play of the scrimmage, I came up and hit one of the receivers and, I'm not gonna lie, I hit him real good. And everybody was celebrating but me because I was knocked out on the ground. I got the nickname "Headache" because I had a headache for a whole week after that. It was a good hit though, but I don't remember it (laughs). I remember seeing it on film and I was like "man that was a solid tackle."

A. J. Davis breaks up a pass intended for Ohio State's Michael Jenkins in 2003(David Maxwell/Getty Images)
ET: This year you took on some additional responsibilities for that Wolfpack team, didn't you?

AJD: I had to step up because I'm a vocal person and all, but I didn't really talk to the team as much as I did this year. I had to be the leader of the secondary because I was the most experienced player on the team; me and Leroy (Harris). I had so much game experience that people would come to me and ask "What do we do in this situation? What did you do last year?" You know, little stuff like plays, sometimes I would remind the coaches "this is how we did it last year."

ET: Even though you're one of the premier cornerbacks in the nation, you also offer NFL clubs a very talented and versatile special teams option as a rookie. Tell the fans about some of the work you've done on special teams and what you're most proud of from your work there…

AJD: I handled kickoffs in the Tangerine Bowl and I really did an excellent job; that's probably one of the best games I've had as a kick returner. Everything I brought out was almost past the 40. Probably the only reason I played on special teams was for blocking the gunners because it's a position that everybody runs from…nobody wants to do that. I jump up to do it because I'm fast and athletic and I'm a competitor; so I get out there with that attitude that "you're not going to make the tackle". I like getting in people's faces, and playing man coverage helped me out at that position. It's probably the hardest job, but it's one of the most fun jobs I've ever had.

ET: In 2005 you didn't allow a single touchdown pass, how did you manage that?

AJD: That was tough because I had a lot of balls thrown at me, but my pride wouldn't let me get beat. A lot of it was God, a lot of it was me. I got into my film and I realized that they were going to go at me so I made sure I didn't get caught sleeping. When the opportunity was there I made a play on the ball.

ET: How much extra pressure did that put on you as the season progressed?

AJD: I really didn't notice because you never want to be beat. So every down I go in saying to myself "I'm not getting beat" and it just kind of came down to whether or not I could keep stopping them at the end. The last game there was a lot of pressure because I knew the team we were playing was going to throw the ball a lot -- they like to go deep --  so I realized there were going to be some good matchups and that I had to win them all. You can't afford to get beat at the cornerback position.

ET: What do you think makes you such a great man-coverage defender?

AJD: A lot of it is attitude. You can have all the athletic ability in the world, but you see the corners who run a 4.2 that can't cover anybody and you see the corners that run the 4.6 and can knock everything down. So a lot of it's attitude and believing in yourself. When I'm on the field I believe they aren't touching that ball. You have to have a lot of pride and be kind of cocky, while being yourself, because a lot of things will happen through the course of the game that will get your confidence real low. So I'd say my attitude and approach to the game is the thing that's helped me throughout my career.

ET: And yet it's fair to say that the thing you're probably most recognized for is your speed isn't it?

AJD: Yeah, that's probably one of the things I'm most noticed for. One of the things that sometimes goes unnoticed though is my tackling ability; I don't miss many tackles. I'm not going to say I'm the hardest hitter out there, but I don't miss a lot. You're the last line of defense in the secondary and if I go for the knockout hit and miss, it could be six points. So I normally don't take that risk, I just make sure I take them down as fast as I can.

ET: How rewarding is it for you to know that you are one of only a few cornerbacks predicted at this point to be a first-round pick?

AJD: It's just rewarding to get the opportunity to play at the next level. If you had told me this a couple years ago, when my leg was in a cast, I wouldn't have believed it. I thought my career was over after my freshman year when I broke my leg, so it's just a blessing to have the opportunity to play football again.

ET: Tell us about that time in your life when you broke your leg and how did you keep yourself motivated to rehab properly so that leg would be strong enough to play again?

AJD: I had advice from a couple guys on the team. Terrence Holt was one of the seniors when I was there and he was telling me about his brother who got hurt and how he came back. Then I had a guy in my corner named J.J. Washington who was real religious … and so I just trusted the training would get me better. And the doctors did a great job fixing my leg and it gradually came back to me.

ET: You could have entered the draft last year…why did you choose to stay?

AJD: I didn't feel like I was ready maturity-wise and I hadn't put a lot of thought into it. I probably would have done alright, but I thought I'd give myself a better chance if I stayed and played the next season; which I'm glad I did because I met some new people I never thought I'd meet and made new friends. I think I lived my college life to the fullest.

ET: Let's talk about the Senior Bowl a bit…

AJD: I'm really looking forward to it. It's just a great opportunity to play in that game because that's the game of games; you want to play in the Senior Bowl if you're a senior. Some people turn it down because they feel like they have more to lose than the game. I feel like it's just another opportunity to play another football game.

ET: Some guys do the same thing in regards to the NFL Combine and opt to wait to workout until their Pro Day where they can set the conditions and what drills they run. What are your intentions about working out at the Combine at this point?

AJD: I'm definitely doing every drill they ask me to do at the Combine. I'm not afraid to do anything; I feel like that's going be one of my chances to shine and I'm going to do it.

ET: Early in the year you tweaked your hamstring, but as the season progressed it looked like it wasn't bothering you at all…

AJD: Oh yeah, it was almost a miracle. I had pulled my hamstring and I was back two weeks later -- and that's not supposed to happen. The trainers got me real healthy, I was in there after hours and when I called they were there for me. I had no signs of problems with it ever again.

ET: When you get to the Senior Bowl what is it that you're going to want to make sure the scouts know about you when you get a few minutes to talk to them?

AJD: You know, I really want them to watch me. I shouldn't have to talk about my game and how good it is and everything, I just want them to sit down and watch me. I want to get their attention and show them that I can play and that I'm going to do things that not every cornerback is going to do. I'm going to bust my butt and you're going to see it. There's nothing I can really say to them that they haven't heard before, but I can go out there and prove to them what I can actually do.

A member of the Professional Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's NFL and college football player interviews and features have been published across the network and syndicated through's NFL team pages.

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