Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators' Davis Takes Field with Renewed Purpose; Injury Last Season Helped UF's Leading Tackler Gain New Perspective on Playing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators' Davis Takes Field with Renewed Purpose; Injury Last Season Helped UF's Leading Tackler Gain New Perspective on Playing

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

GAINESVILLE | Jarrad Davis told a story that he said only his family knew before Tuesday after the University of Florida's practice.

The Gators' junior linebacker from Kingsland, Ga., had just injured his knee against South Carolina on Nov. 15 of last season while covering the opening kickoff - which wasn't even returned. He tore the meniscus, the first serious injury he said he's suffered since he began playing football in Pop Warner at the age of 6.

Davis sat in the training room for the first time since he came to UF in 2013 and while receiving treatment looked up and saw perhaps the last thing he needed to see: the game, on a TV in the room.

It was then that Davis started silently imploring a higher force for the impossible - at least at the time.

"I was thinking, 'please let me go on the field ... let me go out there and be with my team,' " said the former Camden County High School star. "I couldn't. I knew [the injury] was bad, severe. I knew I couldn't play again that yet but I wanted to be back on the field with my teammates."

Davis said he realized a hard fact of football life.

"That's when I knew you're not guaranteed every play," he said.

Fast-forward to the 2015 season. Davis has recovered and, perhaps releasing some pent-up energy, leads the team with 14 tackles through the first two games. He had 12 of them last week in the 31-24 victory over East Carolina, 2.5 for losses totaling 13 yards, and added a quarterback pressure.

Davis is flying around the field and tackling everything in sight - even his own teammates. After defensive end Alex McCallister recovered a fumble by ECU quarterback Blake Kemp with less than 30 seconds remaining, McCallister started running the other way with the ball. Davis, realizing all McCallister had to do was hit the deck to end the game, instinctively tackled him.

"It's situational," Davis said after the game. "We've got the lead, the game's over ... let the offense come out, do the victory [formation] and we can go strike up the band."

Florida coach Jim McElwain said Davis has earned his stripes with both physical and mental skills.

"He's a guy we knew was very important to this team, based on how hard the guy plays, how hard he studies," McElwain said.

While Davis' UF teammates marvel as his motor in practice and games, cornerback Quincy Wilson said Davis might be at his most intense in the meeting room, which probably shouldn't be a surprise since Davis is a member of the All-SEC academic team. …

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