AUBURN, Ala. — When Deshaun Davis walks into LSU’s Tiger Stadium this weekend he’ll do so as one of Auburn football’s best defenders and most important motivators.
Yet not too long ago, it seemed his loyalties would lie on the opposite sideline.
“I remember when we were getting recruited, LSU was a big name Deshaun always used to bring up until Auburn came in the picture,” said Tre’ Williams, who grew up playing alongside Davis in Mobile, Ala. “We all thought Deshaun was going to LSU. That’s all he spoke of, all he talked about.”
The flash of the Bayou Bengals pulled in Davis, who wanted to emulate players like Chevis Jackson and Glenn Dorsey. And it didn’t stop there. Early Doucet, Joseph Addai, and Dwayne Bowe were among the others Davis followed
“The list can go on and on,” Davis said. “They just had guys on their team that played with swagger on both sides of the ball. I enjoyed watching it, and for a moment wanted to be part of it.”
The players merely sparked the LSU fascination, though. LSU’s Death Valley lived up to its reputation and captivated him like no other venue in college football.
“Their stadium was always lit,” Davis said. “Especially night games. I’m a big energy guy on the field and I love crowd energy. That gets me going even more. They had it and caught my eye.”
A liking quickly grew into an obsession. Davis even tried to bring some of the ambiance from Tiger Stadium into his bedroom in Prichard, Ala.
“Yeah, I mean, he had the bedsheets, the wallpaper. I mean anything you can name, he had it,” Williams recalled. “If it didn’t have LSU written on it, he had it in purple and gold. That was just the kind of guy he was.”
Years later, Davis emerged as a star at Vigor High School. College coaches started to notice the undersized linebacker. Eventually the offer he’d long been waiting on came. He visited and enjoyed his time on the LSU campus. The food lived up to the hype. Overall, however, the experience didn’t quite match his high expectations.
“Everyone in my family kind of thought that when I got a scholarship (offer) I was going to automatically commit,” Davis said. “Even my mom thought I was going to LSU, but I took some visits and played it slow.”
Auburn became involved in his recruiting process and it was the orange and blue Tigers who “stole the show.” Everything he thought he’d feel on the sidelines in Baton Rouge he felt instead in Jordan-Hare.
It was unexpected, especially considering Davis grew up in a family of Alabama fans. Most relatives couldn’t even be paid to utter the words “War Eagle,” but there he found a comfort on the Plains that was hard to put into words.
“Auburn was everything I thought LSU would be,” Davis said. “I think it was just destined by God for me to be here. Then after doing research, I found out about all the history and traditions and the great players that came from the university. And at the time, we were not upholding that standard.”
Auburn’s fall from power didn’t dissuade Davis. The hope to make a mark on the program only made Auburn more appealing. It was a challenge Davis wanted, especially after the Tigers’ 3-9 season in 2012. So he committed — even before Williams. But he still a ppreciates LSU.
“Yeah, he still talks really good about LSU,” Williams said. “Deep down in his heart, they’re probably still one of his favorite teams, but he wanted to do what was better for him and his life.”
The first year Williams and Davis played against LSU still stands out in Williams’ mind. Davis was anxious and wanted to dominate against his one-time favorite school. Williams quickly pointed out the key was to “beat these dudes.” Producing was winning. That’s exactly what Davis did last year, when Auburn ended up with a thrilling 18-13 victory in the final seconds of the game.
As Auburn prepares for its trip to the Pelican State, Davis won’t be the only Auburn player who at one point was fondest of LSU. Defensive lineman Marlon Davidson strongly considered wearing purple and gold. Freshman Big Kat Bryant went back and forth between the two schools in the hours before his National Signing Day ceremony.
It’s something the guys have talked and joked about in the locker room. They’ve bonded over their childhood love for their SEC West opponent. All of the Auburn players know they made the right call. They’re also well aware of what they’ll be up against, in terms of both on the field action and opposing fans.
“It’s a hostile environment,” Davis said. “LSU is going to give us their best. Last time we went down there, they embarrassed us. We feel like we’re in a better position right now. We’ve got to go get some revenge, watch film and go down there and swing for 12 rounds. We just have to take this momentum and keep the dice rolling in the right direction and I feel like we’ll be OK.”
Nothing changes this week. Davis knows it’s going to be another “dog fight,” but he’s pumped for four quarters of football. He’s currently tied with Williams as Auburn’s top tackler (29 each) and would like to keep that lead in Week 7.
“We’re going to do the same thing that we do each and every week,” Davis said. “We’re playing a good team. We feel like any team we play, I don’t know what it is about us, but any team we play always plays their best when they play us. We know we’re going to get their best. But what I feel like we’re doing this year as a team is we’re not worried about our opponent. Auburn has to get Auburn better each and every week, and I feel like we’ve been doing that.”
For Davis, there’s no regrets. Auburn stole his heart and he’s glad, because whether the visiting Tigers leave the Bayou with their first win since 1999 or come back home with a loss, “I don’t regret my decision at all.”
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) October 1, 2017
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