Russell Davis of Maryland is a pretty good wide receiver. He works endless hours in the weight room, studies game film as much as English, and does everything else expected of a scholarship athlete. But Davis -- and he thinks this will surprise a lot of people -- has a life away from football.
Many who come to Maryland basketball games probably know Davis only as an amateur photographer kneeling at courtside. "It's essential to have a life outside of football," Davis said. "I could get injured going out for a pass and never walk off the field healthy. I love playing, but I don't want to be one-dimensional."
Davis knows a one-dimensional person -- especially a varsity football player -- is usually stereotyped.
"Whenever I go to social or academic functions around campus," he said, "people look at me like, 'Hum, isn't he a football player? Wonder what he's doing here?' "
This year, though, Davis is hoping to diversify and conquer. For example, when asked about the goals for his junior year, Davis first spoke in academic terms: "All A's and B's."
Last year was difficult. A high school star in Harrisburg, Pa., Davis wasn't accustomed to losing more than one game per season. Maryland went 4-6-1, the worst season ever under former coach Jerry Claiborne.
But on May 6, something happened that he was even less prepared to cope with. His mother died, leaving Davis and a younger sister on their own. "It's been difficult for us because Mom was the only source of income," he said.
But instead of shying away from the pressure, Davis relishes it. "Every day for 15 minutes, I put myself in pressure situations," he said. "On the field, I imagine myself having my number called on a third down-and-20 situation. In a real-life situation, I'll visualize taking a difficult exam on a Monday after a road game. I want to do well in a number of areas and this kind of approach might help."
Maryland's first game of the season -- against Penn State on Sept. 11 -- has added significance for Davis because he was recruited by the Nittany Lions. "I'm feeling the pressure of that already," he said.
As early as the first week of August, Davis obtained film from last year's Penn State-West Virginia game. He showed how to look at film critically and what to look for in certain defenders. Then the conversation turned to parties and photography.
Football didn't come up again for a long time.