By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Kalon Davis was too nice.
The critique came from coaches, scouts, fans—pretty much anyone who ever watched him compete. His footwork was fine. His technique was fine. His fundamental progression was fine.
He just needed to get meaner, they said.
Davis scoffs at this notion, Sure, he has become more aggressive, but not at the expense of his good-natured persona.
“It’s not like I’m not still having fun out there,” Davis said. “If you see me on the field, you’ll probably still see me smiling.”
The Clemson left guard got his first start of the season against Wake Forest during Saturday’s game. He feels he played well.
Davis has a wide array of interests that set him apart from many of his peers. He is a Japanese major excited about going abroad to Japan for a couple of months this summer. He just adopted a puppy from a shelter, naming it after one of his favorite video game characters.
Davis enjoys blending his interests on the few occasions when he can enjoy a relaxing weekend.
“I invite people over, they hang out with my puppy, and we all play video games together,” Davis said of his preferred downtime.
Davis says he does not like to tell people he plays football because he yearns to be known for more than just his exploits on the field. In fact, as a part of his persona, he has more on-field experience than simply football.
Soccer was a big part of Davis’ life in high school, and he says he still plays in the offseason. Davis prefers to play indoor soccer, and even at 335 pounds, the former Chester High School product prefers to play forward, an odd fit for a person of Davis’ stature.
Given his background in that sport, it seems logical that he would be a good fit as a pass-blocker. But at 300-plus pounds, the Clemson staff has been convinced for some time that he needed to refine his run skills and develop as a guard.
His growth was stunted, for a time, because he tried too hard to toe the line between fun and edgy. It led to some frustration as he attempted to find the balance that was right for him.
Davis credits time spent last year with David Beasley, Ryan Norton, and Reid Webster—all backups on the offensive front in 2012—with shaping the identity necessary for him to settle into a comfort zone and begin to show up on the depth chart.
“You can’t try to overdo things,” he said. “You just have to do what you can and appreciate everything you’re able to do.
“Sometimes it’s just better to be loose and have fun than to decide in your mind you’re going to be the nastiest guy out there. That ends up with you being over-aggressive.”
While overseas, the coaches have already outlined a strength-and-conditioning program Davis is to follow so he can be in shape for the 2014 season. In an age where many student-athletes treat football as the only thing that matters, Davis breaks the mold with his insistence on being about much more than a guy who wears a jersey a dozen or so times per year.
In an age where the purity of college athletics is in question more than ever, Davis is a classic example of what can happen when perspective and talent combine.