Davis Ready For Gameday

Davis Ready For Gameday

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When Butch Davis leads the Tar Heels onto the Kenan Stadium field Saturday evening, it will mark his first return to the sideline in 33 months – 1,006 days, to be exact. After taking a two-year leave of absence from football following his NFL stint, Davis is now ready to resurrect a North Carolina program that has suffered through a decade of mediocrity.

"The reason that I became a coach was the relationships," Davis said. "I love the kids – I love being around them [and] I love watching them grow. That's going to be one of the real joys and pleasures about this football team, is watching this football team develop, grow [and] get better every single week."

Davis tumultuous tenure with the Cleveland Browns ended with a 58-48 loss at Cincinnati, leading to his resignation only two days later. While the pro game has its differences from the collegiate level on the gridiron, it was actually off-the-field concerns that led to Davis' move, citing "intense pressure and scrutiny" in his statement.

But it wasn't like Davis stepped away from football entirely.

"I tried to stay involved with football those two years," Davis said. "I visited Southern Cal, Rutgers, Ohio State and I visited a lot of pro camps. Did TV shows, watched film .... from that aspect I stayed mentally involved."

The 55-year-old Davis decided to return to the college game, where the fans are just as passionate and the media is not as demeaning. North Carolina presented an opportunity for his family with the financial means to success and a fan base longing for victories ever since Mack Brown's departure in 1997.

"All the fans throughout the state [and] with alumni functions – they've demonstrated enormous passion to have the football program at or near the top of not only the ACC, but nationally," Davis said.

Ever since his hire on Nov. 13, 2006, Davis has slowly begun transforming the UNC football program and its culture through recruiting, alumni meetings and facility upgrades, as well as spring and fall practices. But all of those business items exist for the sole purpose of game day excellence on Saturdays in the fall.

Much has been made about the incredible youth and inexperience that plagues North Carolina heading into the 2007 season, but Davis plans to look at those unknowns as an opportunity for various Tar Heel players to step out of the shadows.

"Right now today, I don't know who the stars [are that] are going to emerge," Davis said. "There are going to be some kids that are going to come from totally out of left field, because it's that way every single season. Even next year, there will be some kids that you'll say ‘Wow, how did he emerge so much?'

"I can promise you from years previous that no one ever knew before [former Miami safety] Ed Reed hit the field – he was kind of unassuming in practice, and he did some really good things – but when they turned those lights on, he became Superman… There are going to be kids that are going to emerge and become significant contributors to this football team, and that's a joy to watch and that's part of why enjoy being a coach."

Despite the media attention surrounding Davis' first game as North Carolina's head coach, he continues to divert the attention back to the student-athletes, who are the true inspiration for his hard work and dedication in the football arena.

"I'm very much looking forward to the game," Davis said. "More importantly, I think this game Saturday is about the kids – it's not about me. It's about their opportunity to start to build a program that hopefully will be the face of ACC football, and I'm excited to be a part of it."

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