If there is a model football player in this Rose Bowl, it is the Michigan captain, Russell Davis.
At first sight, even among the mastodons of this Michigan vs-USC tea party, Davis is most obviously a football fellow. He has the only head here that is wider at the neck than it is at the ears or any other point.
Those who knew Davis as the shy, composed young man who rushed for more than 2,000 yards during his senior year at Woodbridge (Va.) High School might think that all he has acquired in four years at Michigan is a bigger shirt size.
Nothing could be further from the truth, Davis, perhaps the most highly recruited runner from the Washington area in the 70s, has achieved almost everything he set out to do. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a year, played in three Rose Bowls, been Michigan's team MVP, and this year was elected offensive captain.
However, Davis' development has been more complete than that.
Sitting next to Michigan's All-America quarterback Rick Leach at a press conference today. Davis quietly but surely stole the show.
After Leach had outlined the ancient theory about "taking what the defense gives you." Davis was asked what USC's defense gave.
From what I've seen," he said with just the right timing, they pretty much take away everything."
It has taken Davis four years to show the public the sly humour and winning smile that have always made him popular with friends.
"I'm quiet and shy, a set-back person. I'm an observer of other people. I'm proud of being polite and well-mannered," said the 220-pound fullback called "neck"
"It's always been important to me to make my father and mother happy. They're wonderful people. They deserve it.
"But I've had to stop being quite so quiet. When the guys elected me captain, Coach (Bo) Schembechler told me. You're going to have to learn to talk, Russell."
Then Davis grinned out at the TV cameras and the notebooks representing millions of readers and said-clearly, precisely proudly.. "So I have."
This has been a trying year for Davis-at the light cast on his wrrist symbolizes. However, it is a year that has allowed him to make friendships that will last long after his massive mask has returned to a less grotesque size.
In his first three years, Davis who ran a 9.8-second 100-yard dash in high school and who high jumped 6 feet 9, increased his rushing totals from 179 yards to 596 to 1,092. This senior year he was earmarked for a similar progression and who-knows-what honors.
Michigan's offense, however, is only versatile if you are the quarterback. Anybody who wants to stop the Michigan fullback cold only has to build a defense to do it. And team after team did. Davis reached the point where he was top priority.
"I was a little disappointed when we started to see that teams were shutting me down and I wasn't getting nearly as many carries as last year (225 down to 145)." says Davis. "I wanted another thousand-yard year, and it kind of got to me.
"Then I said to myself, 'russell, you've got another job to do.' So I decided that as a junior I had proved I could run, so as a senior I would prove I could block."
That was no easy decision for a youngster with "NFL prospect" written on him who had said in high school. "I'm not going to USC because all their fullbacks do is block, block, block and I want to run, run, run."
In Michigan's next-to-last game Davis finally faced Purdue's fullback vulnerable defense and rattled off 134 yards.
"Like every kid. I've dreamed of being a pro," says the 6 foot 2 rockhard Davis who has a body better than manya pro already. "I'd love to get the chance. Because I like to block and I can block, as well as run inside or outside, maybe I've actually got a little advantage."
Davis' advantage is not his speed his size or his blocking. It is his upbeat unpretentious personality and his constant hard work at any task-the same qualities that have made him team captain in the same backfield with the country's All-America signal caller.
It is the same advantage he will have long after his Rose Bowls and his neck are gone.