By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Coming out of Greensboro, N.C.’s Dudley High School in the fall of 1978, Jeff Davis was a 6-0, 220-pound linebacker that had a ton of potential.
In fall camp he displayed that potential as he rode up the depth chart and backed up Bubba Brown and Randy Scott at the linebacker positions. But a severe ankle injury a couple of weeks into the season slowed down the rising star’s progress, limiting him to play in only five games in 1978.
“You didn’t miss a game during the Charlie Pell and Danny Ford era,” Davis said. “That was simply a no-no. If you had to drag yourself out there, you drug yourself out there. That was the type of atmosphere and environment we were in.
“I can remember Coach Ford saying, ‘I don’t know about that Jeff Davis kid. He is on the table and is in the training room a lot.”
But thanks to the help of legendary trainer Herman McGee, who passed away in the spring of 1980 after 46 years of service to Clemson, Davis was back on the field and his career became legendary. As a senior in 1981, he became a First-Team All-American as he recorded 175 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and four sacks in leading the Tigers to their only National Championship.
Now 36 years after Davis—who serves as an assistant athletic director at Clemson for player relations—was recruited to Clemson, the Tigers are getting another potential super star from Dudley High School. And like the guy before him, Chris Register is a tough, strong middle linebacker who can do it all and, by the way, he happens to wear the No. 45.
“That number just happened to be open and it is kind of neat,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Register was named to the USA Today All-State team after leading Dudley to a perfect 15-0 record and a state championship this past fall. Playing with a stress fracture for the last three games of the season, Register would have made Coach Ford proud as he finished the year with 111 tackles, seven sacks and five caused fumbles.
“I love Chris Register. I mean that is a full grown man,” Swinney said. “He played his last two or three games with a stress fracture so he is kind of going to have to let that heal and hopefully we will have him ready by the time he starts spring ball.”
Register is a little bit bigger than Davis was coming out of school. Heck, he is bigger than Davis was when the All-American went into the NFL. Davis was 6-0, 235 pounds as a senior at Clemson, this spring Register is expected to weigh in at 6-4, 240 pounds.
“There is not anything wrong with having a big MIKE backer,” Swinney said. “If he is a guy that continues to grow or out grows the position, you can always move him.”
Clemson hopes he does not have to move. Register is expected to challenge Stephone Anthony at middle linebacker in the spring.
“Man is he a great kid,” Swinney said. “Two things I can tell you about him. He is a low maintenance player and he is going to be tough. That is a great pick up for us. Hopefully he can do some good things with that No. 45 and overcome that other guy who wore it a few years ago.”