FSU opponents always knew when Buster Davis was on the field -- both by his jarring hits and his relentless chatter. A Walter Camp and American Football Coaches 2nd Team All-American, Davis had 127 tackles and eight sacks over his career from 2003-06. As a pro he had good years at Detroit, Indy and Houston. In early 2011 he had an offer to go north of the border to play for Canadian Football League champion Montreal. But Buster knew it was time for a change. Not from football -- just to a different place on the field.
Signing on as a grad assistant at the University of South Dakota, Davis was given a big role in coaching the Coyotes' linebackers. He saw it as a first step on a long journey to being a head coach in college or the NFL. His ultimate goal? A return to Doak Campbell Stadium as the face of the program.
Here's part one of our recent interview with the articulate Mr. Davis, as he talks about his days as a Seminole and how he matured, both on and off the field.
What was your favorite game at FSU?
Davis: It would probably have to be that Penn State game (2006 Orange Bowl). That'll go down in history as one of the greatest games at Florida State because of the rivalry between Coach Paterno and Coach Bowden -- going back and forth for the most wins. Playing in the Orange Bowl...a BCS game. Even though we came out on the short end of the stick, it was still a great competitive game. And it signified what both programs have meant to college football.
What's your favorite memory of playing Florida?
Davis: Probably my senior year when I was able to wear number 50, Ron Simmons retired jersey. I had talked to Ron about a year and a half before that. I had bugged Monk Bonasorte about it, because he had introduced me to Ron one day. And I became a fan ever since. I wanted to wear number 50 the whole year, but he wouldn't give it to me, just let me pick one game to wear it. So I picked that game, my last game at Doak. And that truly meant a lot to me. Then, of course, we were playing our rival. So the whole day was a great experience.
What's the game you wish you could play over?
Davis: That Penn State game was so big for us. If we'd made one extra point we'd never have gone to overtime. We would have won the game. So that's one of the games I'd like to play over.
What's the story of how you came to sign with FSU?
After your first year at FSU, you had thoughts of transferring. Why was that?
Davis: I thought about it, you know. But one thing I pride myself on is not quitting anything I do. And it was probably the best decision I ever made, which was to stay at Florida State, because I met so many great people there and had so many great moments on the field. A lot of times freshmen have those moments where they just want to be on the field, and sometimes it's kind of hard to not be playing. But you live and you learn. And I was fortunate enough to have a coach like Kevin Steele to come and raise me, pretty much, those other four years I was in school. He had a dramatic impact on my life, on and off the field. And that propelled me to be successful there and also in the NFL.
What are some of the things Coach Steele did to mold your character and career?
Davis: The thing he brought was professional experience. I remember the first day I met him. I had a meeting with him, and I had missed a class. And he ran me for that, something that happened when he wasn't even there (yet). So he pretty much taught me how to be a professional in college. Which I think is so key because it raises the bar for those particular players you expect greatness out of. And that's what Coach Steele brought to me. It's the same thing I bring to the players I coach right now -- molding them to act like professionals, even if they're in college.
And by being a professional in college you mean…?
Davis: Just everything. You know, on the field, how to think like a pro, how to practice like a pro. Off the field, how to watch film -- because a lot of players don't know how to watch film, what to look for. Taking notes. And then also, in the classroom. Being on time. I think that had the biggest impact on us -- time management. I think a lot of guys in college forget about that. But it's a lesson that goes with you throughout life. Well, time management was an issue for me, so he ran me a couple of times. That's one of the things I learned from him that filters down to the guys I coach now.
What did you learn from Coach Andrews that you use today as a coach?
Davis: Two things in particular: Discipline and being tough. And those are things I demand out of my players. You can go a long way in the game by being disciplined and being tough. Coach Andrews definitely brought those out in us. If you weren't tough, you weren't going to play.
And he also taught the competition factor. Often times people don't realize that the competition factor is huge when it comes to upper echelon football. If you can compete at Florida State, you can compete in life. I tell people that what you do in college football directly affects your life. It's the things you learn (in football) that people who don't play a sport, they don't understand. So football teaches you much more than just the game.
Who's the coach you learned the most from at FSU?
Davis: I can remember sitting in Coach Bowden's office, once I got a little older, talking about important things in life. But I learned so much from everybody I came in contact with at Florida State. I learned a tremendous amount from Coach Andrews, Coach Steele, Coach Bowden, Dave Hart -- being on a committee with him, I learned a lot about what to expect from an athletic director. So it was kind of an all-around learning carousel at Florida State.