Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


No nonsense: Davis just plays

The play goes around left end. Anthony Davis takes the ball from a quarterback and cuts to the outside.

Davis sidesteps a defender and begins sprinting downfield. Working to the sideline, he stiff-arms another man before getting knocked out of bounds nearly 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.

In a fashion UW football fans became so accustomed to seeing last season, Davis picks himself up and humbly trots back into the offensive huddle to await the next play of a Wednesday afternoon practice.

For the past decade, Wisconsin has prided itself on consistently producing the nation’s top-caliber running backs. The Badgers have groomed a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last nine seasons and look to continue that tradition when the 2002 season opens this August.

The impeccable streak of 1,000-yard rushers — which has seen the likes of current NFL players Ron Dayne, Michael Bennett and Terrell Fletcher — appears to lie in minimal jeopardy as the spring football season concludes with Saturday’s Red and White game.

The reason: Anthony Davis.

Last season, the freshman back exploded onto the college football scene, compiling 1,466 yards and notching 11 touchdowns. Averaging better than 130 yards per game, Davis led the Big Ten in rushing and finished fourth in the nation.

His ten 100-yard rushing games set an NCAA record for freshmen, and he was named National Freshman of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio.

More important than any of last year’s accomplishments, as far as UW’s coaches are concerned, is that Davis is back for another season.

After undergoing shoulder surgery last December, Davis rehabilitated himself into top form and appears to be picking up where he left off last season.

“I feel great right now,” Davis said. “Things have been going real well so far this spring.”

As the spring season comes to an end Saturday, Davis will focus his attention on finishing off the semester and relaxing for a few weeks at his New Jersey home, playing video games and pool.

Then it’s right back to Madison, where he will immediately begin preparing for the upcoming season.

Asked if he feels any added pressure to perform at the level he did last season, Davis grins slightly and alludes to the competitive nature of college football.

“I mean, there’s always going to be pressure,” Davis said. “I just look at it as something that I enjoy doing and set out to do the best I can.”

Just as impressive as his numbers is the manner in which Davis carries himself on the football field. When Anthony Davis scores a touchdown or breaks open a 50-yard run, he does not get in the face of opponents or strut around like he is untouchable.

He simply flips the ball to the referee, accepts his congratulations from teammates and jogs back towards the sideline.

Davis plays the game the way it is supposed to be played: For the love of it. He lacks the arrogance many players of his ability possess and is humble about his accomplishments.

Davis’ dominant play on the field often overshadows his soft-spoken personality, but he has inevitably become one of the players on the team whom the younger guys look to for guidance.

“I definitely try to be a leader out there,” Davis said. “I think a lot of people look to me (for leadership), and I just try to take the ball and lead by example.”

One player particularly fond of Davis is fellow running back and best friend Jerone Pettus. The two sophomores, who live together, have formed an unparalleled bond over the last two years, which extends far beyond the playing field.

“Anthony is like a brother to me,” said Pettus. “I’m extremely proud of everything that he’s accomplished, and I’m probably his biggest fan.”

Pettus, who rushed for 272 yards and two touchdowns last season, accepts his role behind Davis, wanting to do whatever it takes for the Badgers to recapture a winning record. Placing the team’s goals ahead of his own, Pettus personifies the character of a team player.

“The goal is to win a Big Ten championship,” Pettus added. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes, whether it’s catching the ball or running in-between the tackles. I don’t want to set limitations on myself.”

Davis and Pettus, who look to be the top two backs heading into this season, will spearhead an already-loaded offensive backfield. With the return of starting quarterback Brooks Bollinger and receiver Lee Evans, and the insertion of sophomore Darrin Charles into the starting lineup, the Badgers display an extremely dangerous offensive attack.

Although the first game of the season is greater than four months away, Davis is always thinking about that next step. He is not going to bask in the glory of 2001 or take time off to reflect on past greatness. That is not his way.

He would rather focus on what lies ahead and how he can improve his game. The game he loves to play.

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