"Awesome Jet" Service Coming to Oxford, Mississippi, Atlanta and all OVC Cities
In the history of FCS football, have two All-American cornerbacks ever played on the same team? We don’t know the answer, but with the cornerback tandem of T.J. Heath and A.J. “Awesome Jet” Davis, Jacksonville State has a chance to have that distinction in 2010. Heath, a senior, has already been named a pre-season All American by several publications. However, Heath himself will tell you that JSU’s other starting cornerback, A.J. Davis, #20, has the potential to earn post season accolades as well. Indeed, Davis, widely regarded as the fastest player on Jacksonville State’s team, has already been named pre-season all OVC by PhilSteele.com.
Davis is from Clay Chalkville high school in Trussville, the same school that produced Gamecock baseball standout, Daniel Adamson, now with the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Amazingly, he did not start in high school until his senior year after moving back to Trussville the previous year. This is likely why Davis slipped under the radar of some bigger schools during recruiting.
The Jet’s career at JSU has been marked by steady improvement. After redshirting in 2007, Davis played in all 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2008. He recorded 41 tackles and earned All-OVC newcomer status. In 2009, Davis had to miss Spring practice with injury, but still started 8 games, missing one game because of illness. As we are less than 20 days from the start of the season, it was great to talk with A.J. about his career at JSU so far, his teammates and his plans for 2010 and beyond:
Q: First off, how did you get the nickname “Awesome Jet”?
A: In a high school jamboree game, I took a little screen pass and ran it 70 yards and scored [it was actually called back] but the announcer said “A.J. the Awesome Jet Davis returns it for a touchdown.” . . . All of my teammates started calling me “awesome jet” or “Jet” for short, and it has been with me ever since.
Davis Recruitment to JSU
Q: Tell us a little bit about your recruiting process and who recruited you to JSU?
A: Coach Wannebo. Tennessee Martin and Tennessee Tech offered me. Some SEC schools were recruiting me, but they never offered.
Q: It sounds like you were a late bloomer in high school.
A: Actually, I was moving a lot. I moved to Connecticut my 9th grade year. My Mom served in the military and she had to go active duty my 10th grade year so I had to move to a different school. In 11th grade, I finally went back to Clay-Chalkville. My 11th grade year I just came in the summer, so I really had to learn everything . . .
Q: What was it about JSU that made you choose it?
A: My visit. I liked the players and the coaches. It was close to home and I didn’t have to go to another state or anything.
Q: So, I take it your Mom gets to come see you play?
A: Yes, sir she does. She comes to almost every game.
Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football for JSU?
A: I like working hard. I enjoy my teammates. They push you. When you are tired, they will still want to compete. Our team is about competition. It’s weird, it doesn’t matter if you are tired, our team still wants to compete. That is all we are about.
Q: Aside from football, what else do you like about JSU?
A: The faculty — they will help you. If you need help, they will work with you to give you a better understanding of the subject.
Looking Back on His JSU Career to Date
Q: What are some of your best memories so far as a Gamecock?
A: Last year against Austin Peay I scored my first touchdown. That was probably my most memorable moment so far. My best game, was probably my redshirt freshman year against Murray State. I had some tackles and a pick at the end of the game.
Q: Everyone talks about the FSU game last year when we almost upset them. What is something about that game that most fans might not realize?
A: Confidence was the biggest thing. We went into a hostile environment playing Florida State. Everybody knows about Florida State. We went out there and [realized] they are players just like us. We [realized] we could play with anybody. We started playing good and I think they were really shocked- they did not think we were going to come out as strong as we did. We stuck with them and we should have won, but stuff happens.
Q: What did it mean to the team to win the OVC championship on the field last year?
A: It meant a lot. It showed how we did not give up. We could have said, we don’t have anything to play for and played every game sloppy. But, we didn’t give up at all, we played every game as if we were going to win a championship. I think that was the biggest thing for us to show how close we are, coming together and winning games – just beating the [mess] out of most people.
Q: After the way we won last year, will other teams be coming after JSU?
A: Oh yeah. They hate us. We have a big target on our backs. They are coming after us.
Q: What was it like playing with a high profile QB like Ryan Perrilloux?
A: It makes you better. On the defensive side of the ball, getting the speed down- his arm was incredible.
A.J. on A.J.
Q: Are you more of a physical corner like a Rod Woodson or a coverage specialist like Deion Sanders:
A: Coverage specialist.
Q: You aren’t afraid to come up and make the hit are you?
A: Not at all. If I’ve got to do it, I’m going to make that play!
Q: Do you prefer man or zone coverage?
A: I like man coverage. I like to lock people down.
Q: Who are some NFL players you try to emulate?
A: Ty Law and Champ Bailey. I like those two a lot.
Q: You mention Champ, he played a lot of offense in college. Would you like to do that?
A: I wouldn’t mind doing it, not at all!
A.J. on His Position Coaches
Q: How do you like playing for Coach Toby Norwood?
A: I like playing for Coach Norwood a lot. He gets us ready every week for games so we have no excuses on the readiness part. He is a great coach. He knows what he is talking about.
Q: The DBs also work with Student Assistant Tommy Rybacki?
A: He is good. He checks in on you. He will get you prepared. He has a gameplan and he knows what he is talking about.
A.J. on His Teammates
Q: Well, we talked about Perrilloux. How do you think our offense will by with Marques Ivory running the show?
A: Just as good. Honestly, I think Marques is up there with [Ryan]. He can throw it, he can play.
Q: Speaking of offense, do you think running back, Calvin Middleton is ready to have a big year?
A: Calvin will be amazing this year. He has lost a lot of weight and he looked great in the Spring. He might have 1000 yards this year.
Q: Who are some of the receivers on our team that present the biggest challenge to you.
A: La Ray Williams and Jeffrey Cameron.
Q: What is it about La Ray that makes him so tough?
A: He is physical. He is a lot like James Wilkerson, but just a little bit quicker, very fast.
Q: What about Jeff Cameron?
A: He is a fast guy. He is a pure route runner. He has great hands. It is very hard to cover him one on one.
Q: Lets talk about some of the other defensive backs. What is your relationship with T.J. Heath?
A: T.J. is a great friend as well as a player. He is sort of like my big brother. He looks out for me and teaches me things. On the field, he deserves every bit of credit he gets. He comes to practice every day, ready to work. He is a hard worker, he is a great athlete.
Q: What about Jawaan Booker- he rotates a lot with you and T.J. in the secondary
A: Jawaan is a great cover corner. He is getting much better. Jawaan can play for anybody, just as well as the rest of us. We also have a transfer from Florida Atlantic, Darian Thomas. He is very good. He will be seeing some action alongside me, T.J. and Jawaan.
Q: We are breaking in two new safeties. One is Keginald Harris- what does he bring?
A: Keggie brings smartness to the field. Great athleticism. He is a long athlete, he is 6’3. He is a good athlete, he can catch and he can cover.
Q: How is Brooks Robinson doing making the transition from QB to safety?
Q: Brooks is unbelievable. He just moved to safety in the Spring, but he got better real quick. I think he is going to be a really good safety for us.
Q: Robert Gray, from Collinsville, is another safety has generated a buzz. What can you tell us about him.
A: Robert Gray is a bigger safety, he is not afraid to make a tackle. He is strong and he can run. He is a good athlete all around.
Q: Who are the biggest hitters on defense?
A: Jason Horton, Monte Lewis, Kevin Dix, Morrell Jones– it’s a lot of people.
Q: You mentioned Monte Lewis- everybody talks about him- what is it that makes him so tough?
A: For one, he is the strongest player on the team. He is probably 6-4 and he can run. He makes so many plays. Monte is one of the best athletes on the team, if not the best athlete on the team.
Q: Who is up there with you as the fastest guys on the team?
A: Jamal Young and Jeffrey Cameron as well.
Q: Any true freshman you see making an impact?
A: We have some linebackers that might play this year. Chase Williams [from Boaz] is one. Brandon Byrd [a junior college transfer]. He is going to have to step up and grow up real quick. I think he will get a lot of playing time this year.
Looking Ahead to 2010
Q: What are the team goals for 2010?
A: First of all, stick together and don’t let anything tear us apart. Play through pain. Most importantly is the OVC championship and then the national championship.
Q: It is projected that we are going to have a defense, how do you guys stay grounded?
A: We study tape. We come up with a game plan every week for different teams. You just challenge yourself daily in practice to get better
Q: What about individual goals for you?
A: Mental toughness. But, I would like to become an All-OVC player.
Q: Speaking of that, what did it mean to you to be recognized as a pre-season All OVC player by Phil Steele?
A: It meant a lot. For somebody to recognize that is big, I thank him for that.
Q: Are you excited about opening up against Ole Miss, an SEC Team?
A: Yes, I am. I want to see what level they really are. It will be a challenge for us.
Q: What do you know about Jeremiah Masoli (Oregon transfer and former Heisman candidate)?
A: I have seen him play. He is a good player. He can throw a little, bit but he can run. He is not a very tall quarterback, but he is big, linebacker big.
Q: How excited are you about opening up with Chattanooga in the newly renovated stadium?
A: I can’t wait. I’m ready to see the lights.
Q: Right after that, you come to Atlanta to play in the Georgia Dome?
A: That will be an experience. I have never played in the Dome before.
Q: After Georgia State, the OVC schedule starts. Who is your most intense rival in the league?
A: It is between EKU and EIU. I always like playing against EKU for some reason, but EIU is a big rival for us as well.
Q: Is the NFL your aspiration?
A: I would love to play football after college. But, what happens happens. I would like to make sure I get my degree first. [A.J. is an exercise science major and like almost all of our players is on track to graduate].
Thanks A.J. and good luck this seaon.