Mouse Davis coaches from no remote tower. He might as well be in a ditch as the receivers swirl around him. His dry baritone finds each player in turn, congratulating, instructing. "If you're having trouble seeing it," he calls, "turn your head, turn your torso, use both hands." The voice is workmanlike, patient. "It is my inherent belief," he says, "that all kids truly want to get better. Our job is to help them." There is no helmet-pounding castigation. The players speak of Davis fondly, as a cherished teacher, perhaps one who needs watching over occasionally. And it is always "Mouse," as in, "Has Mouse gone to lunch already?"
The night before the San Francisco State game, Davis and the team walked eight blocks from their hotel—chosen for its assent to lodge four players per room—to dine on a $3.99 steak-and-shrimp special in a shopping center restaurant. Davis and Lomax sat together and spoke of each other.
"What more can he learn from me?" asked Davis, swelling appreciably. "Why, great humility."
"He played quarterback some," said Lomax, watching his chuckling coach out of the corner of his eye. "That must be how he got humble."
Walking back, the coach sprang for a few ice-cream cones. Lomax had a Quarterback Crunch, Davis a French Vanilla.
"He comes to a place with 31 flavors and has vanilla," said Lomax.
"Am I not classy?" said Davis. "Elegantly subdued?" He would have been, but for the volume of his laughter.
Yet because of these easy ways, the discipline of his teams has been questioned. In reply, Davis reveals something of the sage beneath the little-brother veneer. "Usually when coaches talk about discipline they mean conformity," he says. "A disciplined pattern is 18 yards and out-of-bounds every time. But discipline to me is different. The law, medicine, teaching—those are disciplines, callings where development of the basic tools leads to creativity. Conformity is fairly easy to have. But self-discipline is always to be worked for, in order to approach your potential. As a kid learns the tools of this offense, reading defenses and acting on the run, he can be more and more creative. That requires more mental discipline than rote offenses."
Davis developed his Run-and-Shoot while coaching in high school and won the Oregon State Class-AAA championship with his 1973 Hillsboro team. "We were told that this whacko offense would only work in high school, so it was fun to succeed with it in college," he says. "Now they say it will work only at small colleges, no higher. But look what Wake Forest and Minnesota have done by putting it in at times. Mike Shanahan, the Minnesota quarterback coach, called after they played Ohio State. 'You'd have loved it,' he said, it looked like a damn track meet.' I said, 'Then why did you lose?' And he said, 'We messed up by trying to run the ball, and fumbled.' "
Yet Davis recognizes that his attachment to this racy concept might stand in the way of a major-college opportunity. "There might be a school in the doldrums somewhere that would take a chance, for fan excitement," he says, "but if I were to hire on as an offensive coordinator, odds are that most head coaches—like most defenses—wouldn't be flexible enough to adjust."