Who says you can’t go home? Ray Davis will do just that this Saturday, even though this iteration of Vanderbilt’s FirstBank Stadium looks a little different.
“The stadium doesn’t look like the stadium I played in. Looking around it will be different, but I think walking in, I made some history there.”
Davis did make history as a Commodore. Last fall he became only the tenth player in the history of Vanderbilt football to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. The explosive running back helped Clark Lea‘s program snap a three-year SEC losing streak and win their first game over Florida in Nashville since 1988. Those memories elicit some emotions, but it’s all business once the action begins in-between the cranes.
“It’s exciting to get on the field and see those guys during warm-ups and obviously have convos with them pregame, but once the game starts, all that friendship is gone,” Davis said Tuesday. “They’re competitors and we’re trying to win the game, they’re trying to win the game. I don’t think there will be much love during the game, but after the game we’ll be able to express some love.”
Not the First SEC Homecoming for Kentucky Wildcats
An upperclassman facing off against his former school was once a rarity in college sports. Thanks to the transfer portal, it’s now happened to Kentucky Wildcats in back to back seasons.
Last fall Keidron Smith and Jacquez Jones suited up for Kentucky at their old home stomping grounds, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. It could have been a better day for the former Ole Miss. Smith had six tackles, the third-most on the team, while Jones had to be helped off the field early. He suffered a leg injury that sidelined him until Senior Day, when he recorded his 300th career tackle. Kentucky had many chances to win, but ultimately came up shot in a 22-19 loss between Top 25 foes.
No More “What Ifs” for Davis and the Vanderbilt Defense
Similar to Jones and Smith in 2022, Ray Davis has an intimate knowledge of the personnel Kentucky will be facing this week in Nashville. He is still close with plenty of players in the Vanderbilt locker room.
“A lot of those guys are still my friends to this day, definitely. CJ Taylor, he wears No. 1 this year. He’s a heck of a player. He’s going to give 110% no matter what. I’ve had a lot of fun with him in practice. We’ve talked a lot of smack back and forth last year, same with Nate Clifton, 23 (Jaylen Mahoney), safety is back there, you got De’Ricky (Wright), all of those guys.” Davis added, “You gotta give them their respect as a defense.”
He respects them. He also wants to beat them. There was plenty of smack talk in practice, but it could never be proven. The defense wasn’t allowed to tackle Davis. Now they finally get to put their money where their mouth is.
“Many of them may watch this — not to knock at them — we’ve always said, the what ifs. ‘What if this was live? What if this was a live scrimmage, if I can tackle Ray,’ and all that stuff. We finally get to take off the what ifs and we finally get the was; it was live.
“After Saturday we’ll get to have that conversation. The best man wins. They’ll finally have the opportunity to tackle me and talk all the smack they want, and I’ll have the ability to do the same. But it’s a lot of love for those guys, I love them, but when Saturday comes that love is gone. I’m trying to go get a W, make history over there and beat them.”