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August 6, 2010

Column: Football, kids keyed Davis' development

It's amazing the difference a little perspective can make.

It can come from something like Barrett Jones visiting Haiti during spring break, or last year Brandon Deaderick being shot during a failed carjacking the Monday before the season opener - and then still playing against Virginia Tech.

Just two days previous to his teammate fearing for his life, Luther Davis' completely changed. On Aug. 29, 2009, the University of Alabama defensive end became a father when twin boys Shyron Rayne and Jacquel Lyriq were born.

"I think lot of the guys on the team respect everything that I do," Davis said. "Being a student-athlete is tough enough. That I'm going home and being a father, it's pretty difficult.

"You go through difficult times but I wouldn't trade it anything in the world. I love my boys to death."

That's a far cry from the prospect who was a controversial recruit, and two years ago continued to make headlines about how he landed on the Capstone.

In 2006, Davis was a four-star prospect out of Monroe, La., who had already committed to LSU but always wanted to play for Nick Saban. When the coach left the Miami Dolphins for the Capstone, he came for a visit and fearing backlash at home lied about it, apologized and then said no thanks to Baton Rouge for Tuscaloosa.

"They showed their true colors," he said about Tigers fans right before Saban made his first trip back to face his former team in 2008. "They called me names because I didn't do what was best for them."

That same interview Davis commented for the first time about the reaction of Les Miles, to which the coach steadfastly denied after it quickly became national news.

"He was pretty upset," Davis said. "It went from him trying to talk to me, to calling me a traitor and telling me I'm only doing this because the devil has come back to college football and trying to create a big buzz. But it wasn't at all about that. The fact that he got mad when I took a visit (to Alabama) showed me I would've been just another number on the team."

That was the old Davis.

Consider this statement Thursday after his first practice of the season: "With the leaders that surround me I feel like we're doing an excellent job reaching out to the younger guy. I'm proud to be around so many powerful guys in each unit, and I feel like that's the key what we want to accomplish this season."

Yeah, big difference.

Nevertheless, not even Davis can believe that this is it, after playing in 34 games he's finally landed a starting job paired with Marcell Dareus and is set to graduate in December. Only so much more has happened, resulting in the "new me."

Davis hasn't been to a team party since his sophomore year. Former teammate Terrence Cody is the godfather to his kids. He's due to be married in May (after the NFL Draft, assuming his fiancé doesn't "kill" him for talking about it to reporters), and has even mastered diapers thanks to some help from mom, who is currently getting a visit from her grandchildren.

"I called this morning before I came up here just to get some inspiration, to hear that 'Da-da,'" Davis said. "It does my heart good each time. I just came out here with a different attitude. It's going to be the same attitude I'm going to have every day, because it's no longer about me. Everything I do is for them."

The same sentiment was felt by another player on the Crimson Tide last year, when veteran right tackle Drew Davis was already married with a baby in tow. Teammates say he never let it affect the way played or prepared.

"That's one of the finest guys I've been around," junior center William Vlachos said. "I couldn't imagine going to practice, getting yelled at, watching film and having that responsibility on top of it."

It may be somewhat fitting, then, that Davis is considered the old man of the defense, being the lone senior starter. A handful of players remain from the previous signing class, but that seems like a lifetime ago.

"I think Luther's biggest hurdle since he's been here hasn't been his talent, his talent has always been there," senior quarterback Greg McElroy said. "(He) had a tough time transitioning into the mindset and Luther ever since then has made a full change. It's unbelievable how far he's come. He looks great, he's vocal, he's become a leader."

So what are his kids like?

"Luther has boys? I didn't know that."


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