Utah State DB finds his way with No. 18 Aggies

Utah State DB finds his way with No. 18 Aggies

LOGAN, Utah (AP) Three years ago, Will Davis was content to be playing flag football at Western Washington, gunning for an intramural championship. He had tuition money in hand, good buddies at his side and time to figure out life.

Now the charismatic 22-year-old has his sights set on the NFL after a record-setting senior season for No. 18 Utah State that culminates with Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Toledo (9-3).

``This is beyond my dreams,'' said Davis, part of a defense that helped the Aggies win the Western Athletic Conference title and a school-record 10 games.

Like the Aggies, who have won six straight, Davis is on a roll.

The 6-foot, 186-pound cornerback has had an interception in five straight games to earn first-team All-WAC honors. He also has been invited to play in the Senior Bowl in January.

Not bad for a guy who has played only four years of organized football and found himself emailing practically every coach in the nation two years ago trying to secure a Division I scholarship.

When he finally signed on the dotted line for Utah State's Gary Andersen, the JC-transfer didn't exactly wow. He started last season as a backup and was in danger of being cut from the traveling squad.

``That kind of woke him up,'' said position coach Kendrick Shaver. ``He started taking advantage of the reps he was getting in practice and letting his talent shine.''

That he has done, and he shines in other ways, too.

Davis has 900-plus Twitter followers, and isn't shy about interacting with all. He's the same way off the field - approachable and real. Shaver teasingly calls him a politician because he won't take a seat in meetings until he has shaken every teammate's hand and asked about their day.

``I love Willie Davis, the kid on the field, going around having a blast,'' Davis said. ``But I'd rather be known as Will Davis. I don't want people to be shy around me. I'm not some big-time (athlete).''

But he has made some big-time plays, three in particular that affected the careers of opposing quarterbacks.

The first actually didn't help Utah State, as his deflection of a Riley Nelson pass still ended up in the hands of a secondary BYU receiver in last year's last-second loss to the Cougars. It helped solidify Nelson's job as BYU quarterback and hastened the transfer of once highly touted recruit Jake Heaps to Kansas.

In September, a blitzing Davis supplied the hit that would end the career of Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, who retired after learning he would need a fourth shoulder operation.

Last month, it was Davis who halted Colby Cameron's NCAA-record streak of 444 consecutive passes without an interception when he picked off one in the end zone, helping the Aggies pull off the 48-41 upset victory over Louisiana Tech that propelled them into The Associated Press rankings for the first time since 1961.

``We ran that route five to six times in practice, so everything looked right,'' Davis said. ``I went with my gut and pulled the trigger ... jumped the route.''

Shaver said it's those instincts and ability to absorb information quickly that make Davis special.

``He blossomed when he was able to understand that people are going to catch a football on him and it's not the end of the world,'' Andersen said.

Davis should have known that already from his own upbringing.

His dad, now a pastor, was a good athlete in his own right but grew up in Los Angeles and has two bullet wounds as reminders of his early life in the gangs.

``He didn't want that for us, so he moved us to Washington, good old Spokane, and honestly I'm glad we made the move. Spokane raised me,'' Davis said.

As a senior, another event changed his life when he and his then-girlfriend found out they were going to be parents.

``I remember going to one of my teachers in tears thinking, `What did I do, what's happening?' You make decisions in life and have got to live with them,'' he said. ``My teachers told me, `Honestly, if this is the worst thing that happens in life, you're going to have a great life.'''

Davis began looking at the positives several months in, even picturing the little Jordan pink slippers he'd get when he found out their baby was a girl.

His daughter arrived on Aug. 3, 2008, but died later the same day because her rib cage never developed, and thus her lungs couldn't expand so she could breathe.

He'd get to hold her before she died, calling the moments he had with her ``priceless.''

He has a copy of her tiny hand print tattooed on his upper left arm, and remains friends with the mother and her family, whom he said will be at Saturday's bowl game in Boise.

It will be his final as an Aggie, other than the Senior Bowl, where he can only hope to follow in the footsteps of linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Wagner was a relative unknown going against players from big-time programs, but earned most valuable player honors for the North squad last year and now is a starting linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks.

Andersen predicts Davis will be drafted in a fairly high round next spring, but like everyone else trying to make that jump, faces a tremendous challenge.

Davis' first challenge, though, will be a high-powered Toledo offense led by quarterback Terrance Owens. Toledo enters the game ranked 28th in the nation in total offense. Owens can throw deep and has a pair of talented receivers in Bernard Reedy (82 catches, 1,051 yards) and 6-foot-4 freshman Alonzo Russell (54 catches, 925 yards).

Davis' Twitter followers are asking him if he'll get another interception.

``There are high expectations, but that's what you want, `` Davis said, shaking his head at the thought he almost settled for intramural flag football after Western Washington cut its Division II program. ``You want that on you.''

Quick Links

Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

USA Today Sports Images

Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

The Redskins’ contract with wide receiver Paul Richardson is very team friendly in the first year but it increases over the years to the point where he needs to be a very productive receiver in order to justify staying on the roster.

The big picture of the deal is $40 million over five years. A total of $12.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing, which is comprised of a $10 million signing bonus, his $1.5 million 2018 salary, and $1 million of his $5 million 2019 salary.

More money will become guaranteed if Richardson is on the roster as of five days after the start of the league years in 2019 and 2020. The remaining $4 million of his 2019 salary and $3.5 million of his $6 million 2020 salary become guaranteed on those dates.


Richardson will get salaries of $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022. Each year of the contract he can earn $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($31,250 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster).

It all adds up to the following salary cap numbers:

2018: $4 million
2019: $7.5 million
2020: $8.5 million
2021: $10 million
2022: $10 million

The average annual value of the contract is $8 million, which is tied for 24th among NFL receivers.

The first window the Redskins have to terminate Richardson’s contract without taking a negative cap hit would be in 2020 as long as they do it prior to the fifth day of the league year when the partial salary guarantee kicks in. They would take a $6 million deal cap hit but they would save a net of $2.5 million.

The last two years, when the cap numbers are at their highest, the Redskins could easily move on, saving $6 million in cap space in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."