South Bend, Ind. – Avery Davis has become a case study in perseverance, always wanting to help his team yet never in one place long enough to get a chance.
Three position changes for Davis in less than two years, without much payoff, even caused Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to show some empathy.
“If I was Avery,” Kelly said, “I would be sick of the head coach, too. He just wants to get on the field.”
Finally, last Saturday, just one week after being moved from cornerback to running back when a groin injury sidelined starter Jafar Armstrong, Davis had his patience and loyalty rewarded when he went untouched 59 yards for his first career touchdown in a 66-14 rout of New Mexico.
“I’m glad it didn’t happen any other way,” Davis said. “So much went into it and the feeling I got when I finally made it (to the end zone) made me feel so proud of myself and accomplished.”
The memorable play and all the selflessness that led up to it earned the junior high praise and the game ball from Kelly.
“For him being so humble as a player and unselfish,” Kelly said, “to flip from quarterback to running back to defense and back to the offensive side of the ball, and come up big with an electric run, that really got the entire team and the stadium into it.”
Davis hopes his big moment against New Mexico is a precursor for even bigger things Saturday night when his No. 7 Irish play at No. 3 Georgia in the marquee game of the weekend.
“I want to be on the field,” Davis said. “I know I can make plays.”
Quarterback Ian Book suggested Davis is the team’s Swiss Army Knife because of an innate ability to master different positions so quickly.
“Someone, you might switch their position, you might think it’s going to be a bigger issue than it was with him,” Book said. “Shows the type of player he is and where he’s at mentally. He’s ready to go. I like to say he belongs on offense. That’s what we like and we’ll keep him there.”
And that would be just fine with Davis, who suspected a move to running back was in the works when it became clear that the injury would sideline Armstrong.
“I anticipated it,” Davis said of the latest twist in what’s been an unpredictable script at Notre Dame.
Davis joined the Irish in 2017 ranked as one of the top dual-threat high school quarterbacks in the country out of Cedar Hill, Texas. He spent most of that redshirt season running the scout team in practice.
The arrival of four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec and the dismissals of running backs Deon McIntosh and CJ Holmes in 2018, caused a move to running back for Davis to fortify the position group.
Davis had some minimal production as a runner in mop-up duty, recording 22 carries for 70 yards and five receptions for 30 yards. But dropped passes and two fumbles made the Irish coaches cautious to expand his role.
This spring, sufficient numbers and returning talent at running back prompted the Irish coaching staff to move Davis to defense and give him a try at cornerback, where he was to compete for the nickel slot with senior Shaun Crawford.
The coaching staff celebrated the athleticism and versatility Davis showed playing defense. But being a jack of all trades was leaving him as a master of none.
Kelly believes Davis may finally be where he belongs.
“He wasn’t getting a lot of time defensively, so he was anxious about the opportunity and excited about the opportunity of coming on the offensive side of the ball,” said Kelly, pointing out that Davis is the fastest player on the Irish offense.
Whether Davis stays at running back when Armstrong returns in four to seven weeks remains to be seen. Davis will have two more years of eligibility remaining after this season, and is willing to help in any way.
“I’m ready,” Davis said. “Whatever I need to do.”
Notre Dame vs. Georgia
Kickoff: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Records: No. 7 Notre Dame 2-0, No. 3 Georgia 3-0
Line: Georgia by 14