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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

For Davis, KU was academic

In '84, engineering helped KU land Rockhurst standout

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Over the years, many products of Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo., have played football for Kansas University.

None of those former Hawklets was more highly recruited than Jim Davis, a mobile 6-foot-6, 265-pound lineman.

Texas called Davis. So did USC. But he was more interested in Nebraska and Oklahoma - the two Big Eight Conference powers - and Kansas.

"It was a lot of pressure for a 17-year-old kid," said Davis, who now lives in California. "You're making a huge decision in your life. I remember I sought counsel from a couple of Jesuit priests."

Davis, whose father and grandfather had graduated from KU, eventually settled on the Jayhawks, but not necessarily, he stressed, because he was a legacy.

"Finally, it was the engineering school," said Davis, now 40. "I looked at the rankings of the schools, and Kansas was definitely stronger than those other programs."

Today many highly recruited high school seniors can't see beyond the NFL.

"Every kid wants to play pro football, but the average time in the pros is three to five years, if you get there," Davis said. "You have to have something afterward."

Davis never did make it into the NFL. He started at offensive tackle for the Jayhawks as a freshman and a sophomore, earning a few league and national honors, but then he tore an ACL with four games remaining in the 1986 season, his junior year.

Davis rehabbed the knee injury during the winter, then damaged cartilage in the same knee during a summer workout prior to his senior year. Davis managed to start every game of the 1987 season, but he clearly was damaged goods.

"I lost a lot," he said. "I wasn't the same player. The injury ended my career."

Davis graduated from KU in May of 1988 with a degree in civil engineering, and was recruited again - this time by the California Dept. of Transportation.

"I thought I'd go to California and work for a couple of years, and then come back," Davis said, "but I've been here 18 years."

Davis's job title is a mouthful. He's deputy division chief for geotechnical services for CalTrans. In other words, he oversees engineers and geologists who determine soil stability prior to road or bridge building.

Married with two children, Davis opted to live coincidentally in Davis, a state university town located about 12 miles from Sacramento.

"Davis is very similar to Lawrence," Davis said. "That's why I love it."

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