By Teresa Varley
A look at Bruce Davis' stats from his rookie season last year reveals something that wasn't easy for the young linebacker. Only five games played and no tackles, not even on special teams. And as far as the other 11 regular season games and three post-season contests, Davis was inactive, not even in uniform.
For the third-round draft pick, a standout while at UCLA, it was quite the adjustment. Sure he knew cracking the starting lineup with LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison ahead of him at outside linebacker was a far reach, but he was hoping for a bit more from his first NFL season.
"It was definitely a learning experience, especially with the guys I played behind, two of the best linebackers in the league," said Davis. "Really we have four of the best linebackers in the league. It was a chance for me to sit back and learn from the best in the game, which I did.
"While I was going through it, it was kind of tough. I am used to being the guy. It's a new experience. It's definitely different than the NCAA. If I was going to have to sit down somewhere and watch, I am glad it was here, especially getting a Super Bowl ring."
There were days during training camp when Davis would be running through drill after drill while head coach Mike Tomlin stayed right there watching, pushing him and not letting his slips ups go unnoticed. At times, it was tough on the rookie who was fighting for a job. But he understood where Tomlin was coming from, especially when he approached him at the start of offseason workouts a few weeks ago and told him that his redshirt year is over.
"He wouldn't say that to me if he didn't expect anything out of me," said Davis. "He and I have talked. They drafted me in the third round so he expects me to give him his money's worth. That is what I am going to do. He is a great motivator. He does it in his own way. He liked to give me a little bit of trouble this past year, but that is good, that is what I needed. Nothing comes easy. Nothing that is worth anything comes easy.
"I am glad the situation I am in and to have him as a coach, he is a great head coach. It's very good to have him here. He is a younger guy and he understands what younger guys go through. He really stays on us, me especially, which I like. At first I was like this sucks, but after a while you realize they need something out of you and they are going to get it however they can. It was good to have him on me a little bit last year."
Davis is hard at work this offseason with a new outlook. After getting down a bit last season and questioning himself, he understands from watching his teammates what the most important thing is.
"I have a new focus, especially after last year," said Davis. "It's about the team. I want to do anything I can to help the team. I will be here four-five days a week, working hard, getting it done in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom part of it. That's what I want to do. I want to do what I can to help this team."
And that might be playing on special teams more than getting a lot of snaps on defense. That works for him, especially after hearing stories from his father, Bruce, Sr., who played in the NFL from 1979-89.
"I got a little taste of it," said Davis of playing special teams. "I played in five games which was a good start to learn the speed of the game. Now I want to be one of those major contributors on special teams. That's really where it's going to have to be with the guys we have. That's no secret to anybody.
"I hear stories from my dad all of the time about guys who were in the league for double digit years and all they did was play special teams. If that's what it takes to keep me here, and for me to have an impact on this team then I am all for it."