At heart, Davis is a loner. He does not fit group molds and he does not seek the shelter of stereotypes. When everybody else was dropping out of the R.O.T.C. program, he was staying in—and loving it. Though he is famous teamwide for collecting good-looking girls, he says he will not let them distract him. "I tell 'em, 'Don't get in my way and I won't get in yours.' " He wants to be an All-America in both baseball and football.
Davis pictures himself as "a thinker like Coach McKay. I see him out there, always thinking, and that's the way I am. I don't know why." He is image-conscious. He was disturbed by some of the feedback received last January when he went to sleep at the wheel of his brother's car after a party and piled it into a utility pole. His Achilles tendon was sliced and his knee punctured. The wounds healed quickly, but a number of innuendos far more painful made the rounds. He got a letter from a man who charged him with setting a poor example for children. Davis saved the letter. "That man is going to be watching me the next two years," he said. "I'm going to make him eat those words."
And for a third and more immediate example, here now is Anthony Davis at his coachable best: in USC's first game this year against Arkansas, though he rushed for 96 yards, Davis was trapped for some stunningly long losses. He never made a coy move, but for three quarters he tap-danced, sometimes tap-dancing backward. The following Monday morning Davis was the first player into the offices of McKay's offensive coaches, John Robinson, Craig Fertig and Willie Brown. He was crestfallen. "What happened?" he wanted to know.
"You're trying to make every run a 90-yarder," he was told. "There's nothing wrong with a four-yard gain."
Davis pondered that the rest of the week, and by Saturday he was again sounding like a coach himself. "My style is to scratch and claw for every yard," he said before Georgia Tech. "If two yards are there, I'll take them and hope for more. I get like a psycho on the field, man. I think of something that may have happened to me on the street somewhere and I make up my mind it's going to be me handing out the punishment. I didn't do that against Arkansas."
On the morning of the game, Davis barely touched his breakfast steak. "He's primed," Robinson said. "Worried just enough to be good."
In the subsequent face-off with Georgia Tech's swarming take-a-chance defense, Davis, in terms of yards gained, probably deserves credit for no more than a draw. Tech altered its basic set slightly to put the middle guard in the gap on either side of the center and stunted its linebackers on almost every play, trying to get penetration. The ploy was successful more times than it was not, Davis often finding no running room at all. For every eight- or 10-yard gain he managed to squeeze out, there was a counteracting stackup at the line of scrimmage.
When USC tried to sweep wide the Tech linebackers stunted to the outside and the cornerback rotated and came up strong to support. In all, the Jackets, though a smaller team, did a remarkable job of confusing and containing. Davis and his alternate, Rod McNeill, more or less taking turns in the heat, were held to 137 yards rushing.
But to play Davis so cozily by necessity opened other avenues. On kickoffs Tech Coach Bill Fulcher—"scared to death" Davis would get his hands on the ball—made it impossible by ordering his kicker to present USC with chip shots that fell far short of A.D. "I'm smart enough not to try to challenge him," Fulcher said. As a penalty, however, USC invariably was given good field position. And so it went.
Typically, McKay got another breathtaking performance out of his massive defense, including three interceptions of Jim Stevens' passes by Safety Artimus Parker and solid work from that imposing middle linebacker, Richard Wood. When the day was over, the Trojans were yet to have a touchdown scored on them this season.