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Remembering the Seniors: Rulon Davis



We thought we should go senior by senior and take a gander at their Cal career.  Some photos.  Some videos.  Some stats.  And if HydroTech has any personal stories of his time with the team, he'd share them.  We did Nate Longshore months ago, because Twist screwed up the scheduling.  Also, he's so dreamy!  And we just did Alex Mack. And, then, Will Ta'ufo'ou.  And then Jordan Kay.  And then Anthony Felder. 

Today, we do Rulon Davis.

TwistnHook: Well, ultimately, many people's memories of Rulon might be little more than him writhing in pain on the ground.  But I'll tell you, my #1 memory of him is looking across the field at FanFest 2007 and seeing him stand next to the absurdly diminutive HydroTech.  THE GUY IS HUGE!  Maybe that's why he always injured himself.  No human being could be that size without something going wrong!  Epic(k) beast!

But alas, although he could probably eat HydroTech, he couldn't outrun the injury bug and his Cal career will be more "What If?" than "What amazement!"

YellowFever: I think my most vivid memory of Rulon, as it were, is not knowing that he was black until this past season.  I read all the injury reports last year about how he was out for this game or that game, and what a force he would be if he were healthy, but he never was.

As for why I thought Rulon Davis would be a white name, well, that Rulon Gardner guy is the only other Rulon I'd ever heard of.  Come to think of it, it is strange to think of a white guy with the name Rulon.

Avinash:  For the most explosive and talented of athletes, college football is all about learning to turn pro. It's about recognizing not only whether you have the all-around skills to suceed, but the will, the desire to get up every morning and work out to the fullest. For guys like Follett and

Not Rulon. He was a man before he even suited up in blue and gold, a Marine who'd seen the places most of us only hear about us through the news. While others were learning to grow up under Tedford, Davis had already seen more than most of us on this blog will probably witness in our lifetime. Rulon was a pro already, someone who inspired by presence alone. You weren't going to have to worry about him suffering from growing pains.

In the same way, that ability to be a pro should have towered him over the competition; like Hydrotech stated, he could dominate his own teammates. But unfortunately his physical gifts never could reach their peak because the power could only be harnessed in practice. Danzig's video provides more moments rather than narrative. Davis's video shows the type of pro athlete he can be, if only he could have stayed healthy as a Bear. But we can only capture the flashes.

The following is a small collection of HydroTech's memories of Rulon Davis:

It was a hot summer day at Memorial Stadium.  The sun was still high overhead in the mid afternoon and it was scorching.  On a hot day in Berkeley, 80s is warm and nice.  But on a hot day in Berkeley, 80s isn't so warm and nice when you're a football player and out in the sun for an hour running drills.  The players were sweating.  I was sweating.  Everyone looked glistened with sweat and smelled like roses. 

In Memorial Stadium, only the defensive linemen practiced.  It was summer and thus the coaches weren't around.  The players practiced alone under the guidance of the seniors and upper-classmen.  It seemed like the D-line was always practicing.  Sometimes the DL was joined by the OL, but for the most part, it seemed like that summer I was always out burning to crisp in the sun with the DL. I picked up a very nice dark tan that summer - on my arms, face and legs.  The rest of me was still whiter than Nicole Kidman.  My friends call it a "farmer tan."

That day was like most summer days.  I watched the DL guys practice their hand techniques.  I watched the DL weave in and out of big overturned plastic trash cans.  I watched them defend themselves from imaginary cut-blocks.  I watched them practice their "get-offs."  I watched them practice their alignments and shifts.  There was a lot of repitition.  I figured it must get a little boring with so much repition against nobody.

While that day was a usual day in the respect that the DL was doing their usual thing, that day something pecular also happened.

A figure emerged from the tunnels and began slowly stalking down the steps to the field. 

While most football players strike the normal, or average person as big, this figure was even bigger.  He was tall, large, and very muscular.

Of course, being a part of the Cal Football staff, I immediately knew who he was even though we had never met and this was the first time I had seen him in person.  I wasn't sure if the players knew who he was though.

He came down to the field by the north tunnel where the DL was practicing and walked up to the D-Line.  For a brief moment, everyone appeared to size each other up.  The DL gave him a quick glance and he quickly gave them a brief size-up.  Then he struck a wide friendly smile, stuck out his right hand to the nearest D-Lineman and greeted them. 



His name was Rulon Davis.  He said, "Hi, I'm Rulon," in a big deep voice.  He shook hands with every single one of the players.  He made sure to smile and look them in the eye.  He started with the players furthest away from and worked his way to me. 

As he got to the last player in front of me, he gave me a glance.  It was somewhat awkward.  He didn't know what to do.  He didn't know if he should greet me or not.  Clearly, he was there to meet the players - his new teammates.  I clearly didn't look to bet a player since I wasn't 6'2" 290 lbs (I guess I need some HGH).  But he had just greeted and introduced himself to everyone else there, and so it would seem a little rude to leave me out.  In that fleeting moment of uncertainty, Rulon decided not to greet me.  He sure did think about it though.  Our eyes met.  You could see the indecision in his eyes.  He still gave me a big friendly smile of acknowledgment and I gave him a smile back too.

I wasn't offended by Rulon not introducing himself to me.  He didn't need to.  I already knew who he was.  As I would get to know Rulon later on, I would find out he's an extremely friendly and nice guy, and that his abstinance from greeting me was out of uncertainty rather than intentional rudeness.

That was the day the D-Line and I met Rulon Davis.  Unfortunately, that wouldn't be the day he actually joined the team. 

Later that day, when the team (or what players were there for summer conditioning drills) was doing some conditioning, Rulon again slowly came down the steps of Memorial Stadium from the interior tunnels.  The team was already in the middle of their conditioning drills with Coach K (strength and conditioning coach).  Being the polite and well-mannered guy that Rulon is, he asked if he could join the drills. 

Coach K was uncertain of who he was, so there was a brief moment of introducing and explanation.  Rulon saying he was a junior college transfer, and Coach K saying he was the conditioning coach and such.  But there are NCAA rules to be followed and Coach K wasn't sure if Rulon was truly eligible yet to join the team in team drills so Coach K told him he should probably couldn't do conditioning until everything was positively squared away. 

So Coach K turned Rulon away.  You could see the frustration in Rulon's eyes.  He only wanted to be a part of the team.  He wanted to merely spend time with the players and his future teammates.  He wanted to get to know the players and be "one of the guys."  He was itching to just do something football related to get in shape for the upcoming season.  With a quick mind, Rulon asked if he could do the same drills by himself away from the team on the other side of the field.  This sounded like a reasonable compromise to me.  Rulon certainly wouldn't exactly be "with the team" and he could easily follow the conditioning drills by watching the players from afar.  Yet Coach K, being cautious, said No. 

Thus, Rulon was turned away for good until Coach K was given the green light by the administration that Rulon could truly join the team and participate in their summer conditioning.  As Rulon walked away, he turned his head briefly with a furrowed brow and glared at Coach K.  Rulon took a seat on the gold aluminum benches on the west sideline.  His face was full of frustration and anger.  He seemed genuinely mad at Coach K for turning him away. 

Like I said, and it was very obvious, Rulon just wanted to join his team.  He just wanted to start being with the guys, meeting the guys, practicing with them, and being "one of the guys."  And to be there with them, to see them, and to be told that he couldn't be one of them yet was heartbreaking and maddening.  Rulon's anger and frustration stems from his seriousness and intensity.  He's a very serious and intense guy on the football field. This would become very apparent on the practice field.

Rulon was easily the most noticeable new guy that year.  Not only because of his height and size, but because of his vocal battle-cries.  During the first few practices of that season, those vocal battle-cries really stood out and became the center of the team's attention.  When Rulon faced off against the offense in full on 11 on 11s, the entire team would be watching him. 



There was something unique about his style which made him intimidating beyond merely his size.  Perhaps it was the way he crouched in his 3 point stance.  It was somewhat of an odd visual paradox to see a man that big get that low and small just prior to the snap.  His off-hand would flutter a bit.  His feet would re-position themselves into the turf to find the most secure spot to push off.  And his eyes, the way his eyes got big prior to the snap as he eyed the QB behind the OL; eyes full of concentration and screaming the thoughts in his mind - GET THE QUARTERBACK. 

When the ball would snap, he'd burst out of his stance and let off a huge muscular battle-cry slash exertion man-grunt.

The players laughed.  It was rather funny.  Nobody else on the team yelled out exertion grunts that loud.  Nobody else on the team had exertion grunts which also were quasi battle-cries.  But soon, those laughs at Rulon's oddities turned into laughs of amazement and fear.  It soon became apparent that Rulon was extremely strong. 

One day early on in the season, Rulon lined up against left tackle Andrew Cameron.  The entire team took notice - especially the OL.  If anyone could stand up to Rulon's sheer size and strength it was the starting left tackle, team leader, and veteran senior.  Cameron showed no fear, only concentration.  This was the battle of the day.  It was as if the two best players were about to face off and everyone wanted to know who would prevail.  Could Cameron be the one to stop the massive new defensive beast?  The quarterback snapped the ball.  Rulon burst out of his stance letting out his usual attention-getting grunt/battle-cry.  And in what seemed to be a slow yet fast second, Rulon had powered his way inside and through of Cameron to get early pressure on the QB.  In the resulting few seconds, what just happened settled into the minds of the players.

I'm sure it was something along the lines of "wow," or perhaps "oh sh!t." 

The OL had just seen their fearless leader and most respected player get beat quickly and fairly easily.  The realization of their collective fate for the next three years seemed to sink into their minds.  Yes, they were the ones who would have to face off against Rulon in practices from now on.

Facing off against Rulon began to be somewhat of a spectacle.  When the OL and DL would join together during in-season practices for 1 on 1s, everyone stopped to watch Rulon face off against his man. 

Veterans were getting beat and overpowered.  They were left shaking their heads in disbelief and muttering small excuses like "he's just too strong."  On one hilarious occasion, Rulon beat one backup offensive lineman with a quick sideways shove after the snap.  That player returned to his fellow offensive linemen stunned and in disbelief.  "Did you just see what happened?"  He asked in amazement.  "He literally just picked me up with one hand and threw me aside!"  And yes, it did pretty much just happen like that.  Rulon moved a 300 pound man with pretty much one arm.  It was insane.  It was amazing.  It was funny.  It was scary. 

When it become apparent that even the seniors, veterans, and starters couldn't always stop Rulon, it made watching Rulon face off against the freshman hilarious.  If you could ever cut fear with a knife, it was when Rulon faced off against the freshmen in 1 on 1s.  Fear filled the air.  Defeat filled the eyes of one of the freshman tackles.  Fellow offensive linemen would root on the young guys to give them support after sensing the fear and realization of defeat.  The young offensive linemen would almost always get beat badly, and when they didn't get beat badly, they'd only get beat.  It was a massacre.  It was like that one episode of Myth Busters when they used a minigun to shoot a fish in a barrel.  It was ugly.  It was uglier than Amy Winehouse.  It was crazy.  It was crazier than the 49ers drafting Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers.  It made practices fun and enjoyable.  It made me laugh and smile; the same way I laugh and smile when baby seals get clubbed. 

While Rulon did have a serious side, he also had playful side.  It rarely showed around the football field because he was always so serious, but I do remember one day in practice the D-Linemen were showing off to each other their favorite moves (like swim moves, rips, etc.).  Rulon watched as Malele showed his favorite move, and Mebane showed off his.  Rulon, in a moment of bragging, then told the guys that he had to show them his favorite move in community college that netted him so many sacks.  So Rulon lined up as a defensive end and (Matt) Malele lined up as an offensive tackle.  One of the other DL guys lined up where the QB was to simulate a drop and step-up-into-the-pocket.  Upon the snap, Rulon burst out of his stance.  Malele dropped back to pass block and put up his arms in preparation to push Rulon back.  Rulon then brought both of his hands up above his head, and brought them down on the top of Malele's arms in a massive downward hammer to chop them down.  Somehow, Malele saw this coming and thwarted the effort, managed to get Rulon's hands off of him, and stymie Rulon with a shove.  All the DL guys burst out laughing with Rulon's failure after he had talked himself up only a few moments before.  Rulon had a sheepish look on his face and broke a smile himself at the irony of the situation.  It was a good laugh and great to see Rulon was befriending his teammates.