CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Davis legend lives as twins make mark
CLEMSON — Nearly every Clemson fan knows the name of Jeff Davis.
The Judge, as he was known during his playing days at Clemson, has been part of the Clemson program for close to 40 years.
He was one of the Tigers’ all-time great linebackers who helped Clemson capture its first national title in 1981. Then he became fundraising coordinator for major gifts. And now he is athletic director for player relations tasked with “fostering an environment of personal and career development for the student-athletes who represent Clemson University on the gridiron.”
But there is still another Davis, or two, having an impact on the football team — his twin sons J.D. and Judah.
“One of the biggest factors of why I came here is I wanted to play where my dad did,” J.D. Davis said. “I loved watching him. I’ve grown up watching him and being here in Clemson. There’s nothing like it. It’s been amazing.
“I’m so proud of him. Every time I walk through the doors and I see the PAW (Passionate About Winning) Journey, I think about my dad and what he’s meant to a lot of people … People always saying that my dad is a legend is pretty cool. Not for me. It really hasn’t been about football. My dad’s No. 1 thing is me becoming a great man, and I know I could do that at Clemson and football is just a bonus.”
While J.D. has risen up the depth chart since his freshman season to become the Tigers’ (tied) fourth leading tackler (24), his brother Judah has had to wait his turn a little longer to have a similar impact.
Not because of his own doing, or a lack of ability, simply because of the depth at the linebacker position.
“Judah hasn’t got in quite as much, but that isn’t really an indictment on him,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “It’s really, he’s in a position where we have a bit of depth there. A little bit more depth than at the weak side.”
J.D. enters this week’s game against Wake Forest coming off his best game in a Tiger uniform. He amassed a team-high 11 tackles in only 36 snaps — earning him the Tigers’ 12th Man Award for his performance against the Virginia Tech Hokies.
While his brother, Judah, is a starter on special teams, many questioned if these two juniors were simply “token” recruits meant to appease the legendary Jeff Davis — a longtime friend of head coach Dabo Swinney.
For Swinney, it was more about the quality of the recruit than the name of the father.
“Isn’t that awful some of the comments that young people have to put up with because of ignorance, people’s own agendas? It’s sad. It really is.” Swinney said. “That’s the world we live in. I’ve watched these guys grow up. They were my neighbors. I watched them and sometimes you see things other people don’t see.
“I love Jeff Davis, but I like my job better. At the same time, I wanted them here because I thought they would develop.”
And develop they have.
In fact, the depth at linebacker and the high level of play of the Tiger defensive unit are a direct result of the standard the Davis twins brought to Clemson.
“They had a standard coming in already. Work ethic, intelligence, humility, high character, dependable, consistent, tough, physical, low-maintenance, total team guys, very selfless,” Venables said. “They epitomize what you want all of your players to stand for, but they are kind of the glue to our operation in our linebacker room. They are the constants. It’s neat to see their development in the program.”
Regardless of what the outside voices of the recruiting analysts and media have told them, the Davis twins understand that if they want to succeed -- not just on the football field, but in life — they will have to learn to turn those negative voices into motivation.
“People are going to think what they want to think,” J.D. said. “My dad has been very supportive. He said, ‘Hey, you want to play football? You don’t want to play halfway. You want to play full speed and give it all you got. But at the end of the day, you can live with the success or failures you have if you put everything into it.’ But whenever people get negative — I just use it as motivation.”
Zach Lentz, T&D Correspondent