University of Houston quarterback Danny Davis arrived at a Cotton Bowl press conference this week immaculate in a smartly cut conservative three-piece suit.

"We weren't too impressive late in the season," he told the media, "so I figured I better look impressive, at least."

He was asked if he had heard all the nice things several Notre Dame players had been saying about him in the week-long build-up to Monday's Cotton Bowl, (2 p.m., WDVM-TV-9).

"I can't for thelife of me understand why they worry about me," he insisted. "I'm just a little bitty guy who's not very fast. All I do is hand off."

And when someone wondered aloud why he had been voted the Southwest Conference first-team quarterback, he shot back, "I think I got the sympathy vote."

If all of this sounds like the prelude to a sting, that is precisely what Davis, 5-foot-11, 183-pound senior from Dallas, clearly had in mind.

He describes this affair as a battle between David and Goliath, the city school Houston with the 21st century campus and the underdog football team against God, Gipp and the green monster known as Notre Dame, the most famous football program in the land.

Then Danny Davis winks, allows a sly little grin to cross his face and comes clean.

"Everybody says they symbolize football, but I'm not scared or awed about playing Notre Dame," he said. "They sure don't intimidate me.

I've played against big teams before. I don't pay the Gipper no attention at all. I'm not concerned about myths. All my life I had to overcome the long odds. I kind of enjoy it."

And thrives on it.

Davis once peddled Cokes in the Cotton Bowl stands on football Saturdays, before shifting to the field at Carter High School in Dallas.

"When I came to Houston," he said "I had my doubts about playing. They had a ton of quarterbacks and every one of them was bigger than me and faster than me. I knew I was going to have to work a little harder."

So, as a sophomore, there was Danny Davis, running the veer offense invented by his coach. Bill Yeoman, and leading Houston to its first Southwest Conference championship and a Cotton Bowl victory over Maryland.

That Cotton Bowl game is best remembered for one phenomenal play toward the end. The Terrapins had allied from an early 21/3 deficit to 27-21 with 8:46 left.

Three minutes later, on third and six from his 11. Davis dropped back to pass, escaped from a half-dozen Maryland defenders in his end zone and completed a pass for 11 yards and a first down.

Houston kept the ball until a field goal with 18 seconds clinched the victory, and Davis was carriedoff the field.

"I remember the play," he said. "They all grabbed at me and got nothing but air. Yeah, that was sweet."

But things turned sour for Davis as a junior. His shoulder was separated against UCLA and he sat out 10 games. Houston slipped from 10-2 to 6-5, then came back with Davis at quarterback to win nine of its 11 games this season, including a 10-7 victory over Texas at Austin.

Houston has a 21-5 record with Davis starting at quarterback. He is fourth on the school's all-time career total offense list. Most of all, says Yeoman, "he is a winner, pure and simple."

That description also describes his off-field activities. Three years ago, Davis' 26-yard-old brother, Sammy, died of a drug overdose. The two were close. Since, Davis has been extremely active as a speaker, coach and counsellor in a number of Dallas drug abuse programs.

"One of these days," he told the Dallas Times-Herald, "I'd like to go one on one with a dope pusher. I'd like to find out what they're really made of. Why? What's their bag?" I can't get the answers I want just talking to users or the little pushers being used because of their habits."

There is something else Davis would like: a shot at professional football, even though most scouts tell him he is probably too small and too slow to play regularly at quarterback.

"He runs the veer offense as well as anyone in the country," says the Dallas Cowboys' director of personnel, Gil Brandt." His height is a big factor. And they run the ball so much, it's also hard to evaluate what kind of passer he is. But I think he's an athlete-maybe a receiver or defensive back. He should get drafted."

Davis doesn't like to hear that.

"I think I could play quarterback or anything else they'd want me to do, even a headhunter," he said. "When they tell me I'm too small. I've been doing stuff guys 6-1, 6-3 and 6-7 do and nobody's complained.

"Anytime you can take an offense and win with it like we have, that guy doing the directing should be considered an athlete. I've been talented enough to run and throw, but i'm sure not worried about it.

"Sure I'm a little guy, but that doesn't mean I can't play.

Notre Dame will find that outon New Year's Day.