University of Tulsa wide receiver Ashlan Davis recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Davis is one of the nation's top kick returners and is a returning senior for the Golden Hurricane. The Mesquite, Texas native shattered a NCAA record last fall by returning five kicks for touchdowns (the previous record was three) and needs just two returns in 2005 to break the NCAA career mark. Tulsa is looking to make a bowl appearance for the second time in three seasons and will open up the 2005 campaign on September 1 at home against Minnesota. (photo courtesy wacsports.com)
ASHLAN DAVIS, UNIVERSITY OF TULSA
SCS.com: After starring at Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas and then at Tyler Junior College for a couple of seasons, you chose to attend the University of Tulsa. What other colleges did you consider, and why did you ultimately choose UT?
Davis: "I had a chance to go to LA Tech from Tyler, but they said I wasnít good enough to be on a full scholarship. Like two days before I was about to sign with Tulsa, Wyoming called, but I wasnít down with the cold so I went to Tulsa. Plus my mom was tired of me not making a decision so I said I guess."
SCS.com: You made an immediate contribution to the team in 2004. For the season, you totaled nearly 500 receiving yards, averaged 30 yards per kickoff return, and scored a total of six touchdowns. You broke the NCAA record last year by returning five kickoffs for TDs; the previous single-season record was just three. In fact, you need just one kickoff return in 2005 to tie the NCAA's career mark and two to break that record. What is the key to your success as a return man, and do you feel you'll get a shot at punt returns this fall?
Davis: "The key to my returns is great blocking by my teammates, then itís all about vision. Next thing you know you're gone. I donít know what it really is to me....I see my way through, but then you watch tape the next day and you see some great blocks here and there or they just get in the way of a defender and I go the distance. Then thereís the one when I use people as blocks by knowing if I commit one way, they will go, then cut back. And of course teams will get a shot at me on punt returns."
SCS.com: Following that fabulous junior season at Tulsa, you were named First Team All-WAC and also earned numerous All-American honors from SI.com, The Sporting News, and others. What does the national recognition mean not only to you but to your team and your school?
Davis: "I really donít know what it means to my school. It's not like there was a parade or something. I really didnít get much credit around the town or really too much on campus. It was like any other day pretty much, and most people donít even know my name unless it just so happens to come up. My teammates were proud of me because really that was the highlight of our season at first because we weren't winning, but then it was like donít take too much credit because this is a team effort."
SCS.com: As we near the start of the 2005 season, the expectations will be high for you. NationalChamps.net has already chosen you as a 2005 Preseason First Team All-American as a kickoff returner, and numerous other honors of a similar fashion are sure to follow. How do you handle the high expectations others have put on you, and tell about one or two specific things you've worked to improve on in the offseason.
Davis: "If I was to say I have expectations, it would be to prove to people that I am just as exciting at receiver and that I can do just as good when you throw me the ball. Most people be like 'he too short.' I really donít have no expectations. Whatever happens happens....and then go on to a bowl game, then the next level."
SCS.com: After appearing in the Humanitarian Bowl in 2003, the Hurricane went just 4-8 last season. However, several top players return to this fall's squad, including yourself, LB Nick Bunting, and TE Garrett Mills. What goals have been set for this season, both for yourself personally and for the team as a whole?
Davis: "Well everyone wants to go to a bowl game, so the goals for this team would be just that, a bowl game. Me, I want to finish what I started, put the record at say at least ten."
SCS.com: Your head coach, Steve Kragthorpe, took over in 2003 and produced the biggest turnaround in Division-I football that season. He took an underachieving squad and turned them into a bowl team in 2003, the Hurricane's first postseason trip in twelve seasons. He earned WAC Coach of the Year that season and was a finalist for the National Coach of the Year award. What makes Coach Kragthorpe so successful, both on the field and on the recruiting trail?
Davis: "I really don't know. I just got here last January, and we went 4-8 last year. That was the first losing season I have ever had since I have been playing football, and I have been playing 14 years."
SCS.com: You've only played one season of D-I college football, but during those few months, you had a chance to play in some tough road atmospheres as well as take the field in front of the home fans on numerous occassions. Talk about the differences between playing on the road and at home. How much of a difference do the fans make during a game, whether it's at home or in enemy territory?
Davis: "Some people say that playing on the road is bad, but I like it because our stadium is old and run down so I would rather play away. I sometimes like to play with the fans in hostile territory just because it's fun because supposedly they hate you. But I like it at the end of the game when the fans give you props for the game if I done well."
SCS.com: In recent years, the topic of paying college athletes has come up more and more. Some people say that since the players make so much money for their school, their conference, and the NCAA, they should be paid. Others disagree, saying that paying college players is not right because that is what professional sports is for. What is your opinion on this subject?
Davis: "About paying college players, I think you should do something because already I have lost like ten pounds from only eating like one meal a day. I have no money for the entire summer, so I would say give us something. I know they can work out some kind of agreement."
SCS.com: Though you have only been on campus for one full season, tell us about your favorite memory at Tulsa thus far. Also, briefly discuss your favorite memory from your football career, whether it be from high school, college, or some other time.
Davis: "My favorite memory would have to be the purchase of a new car. (My favorite) football memory would be the first time I got to play college football. My first catch was a TD, second a TD, third a TD, like one more TD for a catch.... Put it this way, I had 7 catches for 5 TDs my freshman year."
SCS.com: Many athletes have role models that guide their athletic and personal lives. Who is one person you look up to on the field and one person you admire off the field?
Davis: "I really donít look up to anyone because I feel thatís them, and I'm searching for me. If I had to say a player, I will always enjoy to watch Barry Sanders. Off the field, I look up to no one. If you were to say who I admire, people who are trying to may the world a better place."
SCS.com: If a young player was reading this and aspired to become a successful football player, what advice would you give him?
Davis: "If a kid came up to me, what advice I would give him is 'I ain't your role model.'"
SCS.com would again like to thank Tulsa's Ashlan Davis for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Golden Hurricane the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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