It is what Anthony Davis has been training for his whole life -- a life that is halfway through its 19th year.
The success. The awards. The honors. The food, for a teenager who topped out at a tubby 367 pounds when he arrived at Rutgers last summer. All of them are memories as the massive sophomore offensive lineman attempts to take on the biggest challenge of his young football life -- switching to left tackle.
|Anthony Davis broke into college football by opening holes for Ray Rice. (US Presswire)|
Sounds simple, technically, but couldn't be more emotional and complex when it comes to pouring a football foundation. Left offensive tackle, the second-highest-paid position in the NFL. The hardest to master, perhaps, at any level. The position made famous by author Michael Lewis in his fine book, The Blind Side.
What are you doing with your summer vacation? Eighteen-year-old Anthony Davis is continuing his left tackle makeover. Of course, that was the plan all along for perhaps the most important recruit in Rutgers history.
Bigger, faster, stronger, younger
If Schiano and the Scarlet Knights were going to turn the corner they had to get the local kid from Piscataway High, especially with every major program in the country on Davis' trail. It was credibility weighing in at more than three bills.
They say if you have a quarterback and left tackle, you can do anything on offense. That's a simplistic view, but one Schiano wants to build on. He lost both his tackles (All-Big East performers Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah) from a unit that allowed the second-fewest sacks in the country (10). Rutgers has been good, making three consecutive bowls, but it wants to be great. That's why Davis "interned" at right guard in 2007. Schiano threw the kid in there -- at age 17, mind you -- to get some experience.
"That's not a good breaking-in spot," Davis said. "I was 17 going against the strongest people on the field, defensive tackles."
Struggling is relative. While Davis was finding his way -- maybe because Davis was finding his way -- tailback Ray Rice finished third nationally in rushing and became the school's all-time leading rusher before being picked in the second round by Baltimore. Meanwhile, the Football Writers Association of America named Davis a freshman All-American.
Now in 2008, he has to not only hold down the line but lead a program from a position that scores no points, throws no balls and takes no handoffs. Davis' story is about more than Rutgers. It is about the state of the position, the state of football. And how the heck can teenagers be pushing around grown men?
The A.D. phenomenon
Born to play left tackle? Judge for yourself. At age 12, he was 6 feet tall and weighed 250 pounds. Rutgers started recruiting him as a sophomore. Schiano remembers peeking into Davis' classroom early on and wondering what an adult was doing sitting at a desk. On the first play of his high school career, the big jelly belly got knocked on his butt by an opponent 100 pounds lighter. Teammates got in his grill and cursed him. Nothing that big should let anything that small push it around.