UNIVERSITY PARK - Senior leadership might be a clich￩ that is often overused in high school and even in collegiate sports, but it’s a concept former Tyler Junior College quarterback Matt Davis isn’t sleeping on.
Davis, a senior at SMU, knows as the Mustangs’ starting quarterback, which he has been for most of the past two seasons on the Hilltop, much is expected from him, both on and off the field in terms of leadership, a responsibility the ex-Apache both welcomes and embraces.
“(I take it) 100 percent seriously; that’s my job,” Davis said. “I am the voice, I am the leader of this team. I take a lot of pride in it and I take it very seriously, so I just try to be the best I can every day.”
In 12 games last season, 11 as SMU’s starter under center, Davis threw for 2,263 yards and ran for 761 yards. He accounted for 16 passing touchdowns and scored 10 more on the ground. Davis also rushed for 100 or more yards four times in 2015.
Davis’ favorite target last fall was Courtland Sutton, a 6-4 pass catcher out of Brenham who after earning a medical redshirt in 2014 caught 49 passes for 862 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015 as a freshman. Sutton was named preseason first-team All-American Athletic Conference by Athlon Sports and Davis knows it’s an honor that’s well deserved.
“Courtland’s my man, my boy,” Davis said. “He’s doing a really good job. I think he’s grown a lot. He’s gotten bigger, gotten faster in his mental game, has gotten 10 times better, so I’m excited to see how he’s going to do (this fall).”
And as Davis’ top target through the air, Sutton has built a solid relationship with his starting quarterback. So who better to comment on Davis’ leadership style, something Sutton sees as a nice mix of leading by example along with being vocal on the practice field, in the film room, on the bus and wherever else Davis’ sage advice is needed.
“Oh, Matt’s definitely both; he might say that he’s not lead-by-example, but he’s definitely a very vocal and lead-by-example type of leader,” Sutton said. “We saw that all through offseason. All he’s been doing is taking all the young guys and everyone, letting them know that we haven’t arrived anywhere. He’s making them understand that we have to get better every day.”
Davis’ first two seasons at SMU have been all about one word: acclimation. In 2014, when he was fresh off a successful stint with the Apaches, he was acclimating to new surroundings, a new program, a new coach and a new scheme.
That first season with the Mustangs was interesting to say the least. After SMU started 0-2, June Jones resigned as head coach and the Ponies finished 1-11.
However, the outlook on the Hilltop is much more optimistic these days after the hiring of Chad Morris prior to last season, a campaign where the Mustangs doubled their 2014 win total.
At this point a year ago, Davis was still trying to learn the nuances of Morris’ offensive scheme, but now he’s more focused on helping his younger teammates get up to speed so they can contribute to the team’s success even quicker.
“Just excited to be here, be part of this team, what we’re doing,” Davis said. “I think it’s just exciting to get out there with these guys again. A thousand times (more comfortable heading into my senior year), getting more comfortable with the coaching staff, my players, system, the structure. Being second year in the system, it’s just really good. I’m excited.”
Stephen Hunt is a Frisco-based freelance writer.