- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

It’s not hard to imagine Florida State’s Buster Davis quickly taking to college football’s postseason awards circuit.

He’s a semifinalist for the Butkus (top linebacker) and Lombardi (top lineman or linebacker) awards, and a quarterfinalist for the Lott Award (top defensive player). When the Bednarik Award, another honor for defensive player of the year, announces its semifinal list, Davis probably will be on it.

The winners of each award make an acceptance speech after the announcement. Many keep their remarks brief, thanking family, coaches and teammates.

The Seminoles’ loquacious linebacker has other ideas.

“Oh man, if I get one, they may have to cut the commercial time,” Davis said. “People who paid for an ad may not get their commercials seen now. If I get one of them, they’ve got a long day. But I’m going to try to come up with three.”

It is plausible Davis could pull it off. He ranks first in the ACC in solo tackles and second in the conference in total hits for the Seminoles (4-3, 2-3), who visit Byrd Stadium to face Maryland (5-2, 2-1) tomorrow.

In a season that has featured uncharacteristic struggles for Florida State, Davis is a reminder of the talent that remains in Tallahassee.

“I would say Buster Davis is probably the No. 1 leader on our football team, both offensively and defensively,” coach Bobby Bowden said. “He’s played well and he’s an outgoing person. He’s one you have to tell to him to not talk. You tell him ‘Quit talking, you’ve had enough.’ ”

There’s that chatterbox tendency again, one exacerbated by constant gripes about his 5-foot-11, 248-pound frame. Yet his on-field production — 63 tackles in seven games, two behind Maryland’s Wesley Jefferson — will land him on nearly every All-America team at season’s end.

He also has held together a linebacking corps decimated by injuries. Of the Seminoles’ top six linebackers, two are freshmen, one is a sophomore and another is a walk-on, yet Florida State’s run defense still ranks third in the ACC. Davis has helped at two spots, playing some on the weak side as well as at his usual position in the middle.

“That’s my thing, what I thrive on. No matter what it is, I can play it,” Davis said. “I can play anything and it doesn’t bug me one bit. I can’t wait and show off again. Everybody says I’m too short, too short, too short. I go out to prove I’m the best linebacker in the country.”

Not surprisingly, Davis will take on nearly any topic with his refreshing candor. He shrugs off unrealistic expectations for unbeaten seasons (“College football is crazy. In six years, how many teams have there been that have gone undefeated? Ain’t many teams go and do that.”) and bemoans fair-weather fans (“If you want to be with us, don’t shoot me in the foot when I’m doing bad and hug me when I’m doing good.”)

Another topic is of particular consternation to Davis, who credits his garrulous mother and grandmother for his talkative manner — calls from fans for Bowden, the winningest coach in Division I-A history, to retire.

“You look at it and you say ‘Do they really know what they’re talking about,’ and most people don’t — 99.99 percent don’t know what they’re talking about,” Davis said. “It was so funny that people had the audacity to say Coach Bowden should retire. It’s so silly. I’ve never seen so many people think they know so much about our program and they don’t know a [darn] thing.”

Davis is as much of an expert as any Seminole, but it almost didn’t happen. He returned home to Daytona Beach for a few days during his freshman year and considered transferring before finally coming back.

He earned a starting job as a sophomore, and never relinquished it. Now, he’s looking forward to a potentially lucrative pro career that would help both himself and his 6-month-old son, Jordan — but not before finishing his work at the college level.

“That’s why I came here. I wanted to be the next great linebacker. We have a great history,” Davis said as he rattled off Derrick Brooks, Marvin Jones and Sam Cowart as some of his favorite players. “When I’m gone, maybe they’ll mention my name up there. At least I hope they would.”

Note — Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said defensive end Barrod Heggs, who was suspended the last two games for an unspecified violation of team rules, would return tomorrow. “He’s been reinstated,” Friedgen said. “Yeah, he’ll play.”

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