Aug. 14, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
No one has to tell Paul Davis that size doesn’t matter. He knows it and proves it every time he takes the field.
At 5-11, 218-pounds, the sophomore linebacker from Cairo, Ga. (Cairo High School), is not the biggest player on the defense — actually, he’s closer to the smallest — but he has a big heart, plays with a big motor and harbors super-sized plans for 2014.
Those plans start with improving on his tremendous 2013 season.
Despite making only one start (he did play in all 13 games), the freshman became one of the defense’s bright spots, finishing eighth on the team with 41 tackles (35 solo), 5.0 tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. He debuted with six tackles (four solo) and a TFL on Aug. 31 vs. Elon, and had big games in ACC play at Clemson on Nov. 14, where he put together a six-tackle effort (all solos), with a TFL, and against Virginia Tech on Sept. 26, in his first career start, a four-stop (three solos) game with a career-best 2.0 TFLs.
Davis is a known quantity now and, heads into the team’s second scrimmage on Saturday topping the depth chart at Will Linebacker. But he’ll still carry a chip on shoulder when he takes the field Saturday as he will every Saturday this Fall.
Having something to prove is nothing new for the former three-sport star at Cairo High, who played both sides of the ball in football (running back on offense, linebacker on D) as well as left and centerfield in baseball and guard in basketball.
Nor is proving himself. Davis ran for better than 1,000 yards while making more than 100 tackles as a senior (he holds the school single-season record with 138 stops), while helping the Syrupmakers win back-to-back-to-back Regional championships.
He won’t stop until he brings an ACC Championship to Georgia Tech.
Davis did stop long enough to talk with The Good Word, however. He spoke about improving in his second year on the Flats, disproving the knock on his size and proving that Syrupmakers can actually be quite intimidating.
THE GOOD WORD: As you begin your sophomore year is it exciting to see your name at top of depth chart at Will Linebacker?
Paul Davis: It’s very exciting. I’ve been working hard all off-season. I’ve been taking good coaching from [Linebackers] Coach [Andy McCollum] and [Defensive Coordinator Ted] Roof. I’ve been paying attention to my coaches and trying to work hard every day, just trying to work my way to the top. Everybody on the team is trying to just get through camp, keep working hard, trying to be the best we can be.
TGW: In looking to build off last year, how important is having had a year with Coach Roof and Coach McCollum?
DAVIS: I’m a lot better prepared. I’m a year into the defense. Now I know the defense better. I know my plays better. I know where I’m supposed to be. I’ve got great coaches like Coach Mac and Coach Roof that have been teaching me hard over the off-season to get to know the defense. I feel a lot better this year. I’m a lot more comfortable. I’m not out there thinking. Last year as a freshman, I was kind of thinking, trying to learn the defense, but now, I’m very confident. I know the defense and I’m ready to play. I like to play on instinct. When you know the plays you’re not really thinking. I feel like when you’re not thinking you’re playing faster. You know what you’re doing. You’re moving a lot faster. That’s how I’ll be playing this year.
TGW: You were a two-way player in high school. Do you ever miss running back?
DAVIS: I’m more of a defensive player. I like to hit! I’m a physical guy but sometimes I miss playing running back. I feel like I had a pretty good high school career at running back my senior year but I like to hit instead of getting hit. (laughs)
TGW: You also played baseball and basketball at Cairo High School. When did you choose football as your primary sport?
DAVIS: I played all three sports up until my junior year. I kind of just stopped playing basketball. I knew I wasn’t that good. I just played to stay in shape. I knew being 5-9 I wouldn’t really have a future at basketball. I liked baseball but I just kind of was leaning toward football. That’s my passion. I love football. So that’s what I chose. I had college coaches starting to come in and talk about football. So that’s what I put most of my time in. They told me I had a future in football so that’s what I focused on.
TGW: Are you enjoying proving people wrong that labeled you “too small” to play football?
DAVIS: Yes sir. My mom always instilled in me just go out for what God said in Philippians, 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That’s what I go by. I don’t let size matter. I just keep going hard and whatever happens happens.
BONUS: TGW: Cairo’s nickname is the Syrupmakers. How do you make that moniker intimidating?
DAVIS: You make it intimidating because the defense is going to stick it to you. We’re going to be like gnats. We’re going to stick to you and we’re going to stick hard. In Cairo we’ve got a lot of small guys flying around that stick it to you hard. `All 11 heads to the ball.’ That’s what Coach [Jeff] Littleton, my defensive coordinator in high school, preached. `All 11 heads to the ball.’
Get The Good Word in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.