Fred Davis can see clearly now. His goal is finally coming into view. He understands and accepts his blue-collar role with the top-ranked USC football team.
Yes, Davis' eyes are wide open. And the former Rogers High standout likes what he sees.
"Right now, it's going real good. They're trusting me a lot more," Davis said following USC's exciting 34-31 win at Notre Dame last Saturday.
"When I was a freshman, a lot of stuff I thought I knew, but I really didn't."
When Davis signed with USC, he was touted as one of the premier wide receiver recruits in the country - a pass-catching blur. But when he took the field as a starter against Notre Dame for the second straight week, it was as a run-blocking tight end. Thickly built through the neck and shoulders, Davis looks more like a linebacker than a receiver these days.
"I weigh 245. I'm a lot bigger. I was 215 when I first got here," the sophomore said. "Now I'm trying to be a tight-end type."
Davis' playing time used to be limited to appearing at the tail ends of blowouts at USC. Davis' willingness to block and his ferocity in the weight room led coach Pete Carroll to reward him with more playing time. Davis has played so well that he was on the field for the winning drive that culminated with quarterback Matt Leinart's one-yard touchdown sneak.
Davis, who seriously contemplated transferring upon being switched from wideout to tight end as a freshman, no longer takes the privilege of playing at USC for granted.
Unlike last year, when he wasn't allowed to play in the Orange Bowl because of a bad habit of being habitually late returning to Los Angeles following visits to Toledo, Davis has graciously accepted his move to tight end.
He is evolving from a me-first athlete with great individual talent to a team-oriented individual who has sacrificed some of that talent for the good of the team.
Davis, whose blocking helped create running lanes for Heisman Trophy hopeful Reggie Bush against Notre Dame, is just happy to get a small piece of the big time.
"I'm glad I made this decision - getting to play on the No. 1 team," he said. "I don't even go home now. L.A. is my home."
When Davis looks back on his freshman year at USC, he realizes how much he has matured. Until last season, when he was limited to a total of four catches for 30 yards, football had always been easy for him.
"You're not the only person here," he said. "There are a lot of other players who can make major plays at important times."
In Davis' defense, one of the reasons he acted like a spoiled teenager last year was that he went straight from Rogers to USC, bypassing his high school graduation and enrolling at USC in the spring of 2004.
Davis had some growing up to do. Leaving USC wasn't the answer. Davis discovered he couldn't run away just because things weren't going in his favor.
"Sooner or later, I'm going to have a break-out game," said Davis, who has two catches for 23 yards in 2005.
It was a long, hard process to get here, but in the end Davis finally found his role with the best team in the country.
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