Wide receiver Mike Davis almost did not return for his senior season.
After hauling in 57 receptions and leading the Longhorns with 939 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior in 2012, Davis declared for the 2013 NFL Draft in January. Hours later, though, the wide receiver underwent a change of heart and announced his return for one last season.
“I just felt like it was my place to come back,” Davis said. “I felt like I owed Texas that much. I wanted to come back and win more games than I did last year and hopefully get to a BCS Bowl game or national championship.”
The Longhorns are thrilled that Davis decided to come back. As an explosive downfield threat with tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability, he is the focal point of the Texas passing attack. Now that he is a senior, Davis considers himself a leader in the locker room, and his off the field contributions are just as valuable as his on-field production.
“My role on this team is being a leader,” Davis said. “It’s my job to keep everybody going and make sure our younger receivers know what to do just in case one of us goes down. I need to be a leader for this offense and team, period, and give us motivation.”
Davis got off to a fast start in his first two games of 2013, grabbing 13 passes for a team-leading 177 yards and three touchdowns. Despite a fumble in Week 1 and several dropped passes last week, the senior showed an ability to remain focused and unshaken, prompting praise from co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.
“He’s done a great job as a leader and is instrumental on the sideline,” Applewhite said. “When he wasn’t playing well against New Mexico State, he was staying into it, getting others involved. Despite drops, when he was playing well last Saturday against BYU, catching balls and scoring touchdowns, he was doing the same even when we were behind. It’s good to have a senior leader like that on the sideline.”
Applewhite said that, in addition to being the Longhorns biggest deep threat, Davis possesses the skillset to beat defenses underneath the coverage as well. Despite this, the senior wide receiver’s biggest asset is his ability to lead the Texas to quick scores with long catches down the field.
Davis finished third in the Big 12 with 16.5 yards per catch last season, and he averaged 41.1 yards on his seven scoring grabs. The speedy wide out already recorded four receptions of at least 20 yards in his first two games of 2013, and head coach Mack Brown believes his aptitude for catching jump balls is what allows him to be so effective downfield.
“Mike has a knack of jumping up and getting the deep ball,” Brown said. “He’s becoming one of the best in the country at doing that.”
After cementing his decision to return to Texas, the wide receiver trained diligently in the offseason with strength and conditioning coaches Bennie Wylie and Jeff Madden. In addition, he dedicated extra time to perfecting his skillset as a receiver as well as a route runner.
“I hit the weight room hard in the offseason,” Davis said. “I really worked my butt off, and even after workouts I would work on route running and catch some balls and try to perfect my craft as much as I can.”
A productive season would go a long way in solidifying Davis as one of the most prolific wide receivers in Texas history. The senior currently stands sixth in school history with 162 receptions and seventh with 2,203 yards through the air.
Climbing up these leaderboards is far from Davis’ most pressing objective, though. He returned this season intent on leading Texas back to a BCS Bowl, and a monstrous season by the standout receiver would be a major step towards achieving this goal.