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Davis Passes Williams on tackle list


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Deshaun Davis earns 'bragging rights' over Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams

Updated 11:18 AM; Posted 11:18 AM



By Tom Green



It was a moment four years in the making as the two embraced and then posed for a photo. Auburn's senior linebacker and leading tackler surpassed his position coach on the program's career tackles list during the Tigers' 31-16 win against the Rebels on Saturday.

"It's a big accomplishment for me just knowing our relationship," Davis said. "But I kind of got bragging rights for a minute now."

Davis needed just two tackles against Ole Miss to surpass Williams, a former All-SEC linebacker who played at Auburn from 2001-05, on that list. Williams finished his career with 214 stops, which was 12th-most by a player since 2000 entering the season.

It didn't take long for Davis to tie Williams' mark and then eclipse is on Saturday. Two plays into the game, Davis stopped Rebels running back Scottie Phillips for a 1-yard gain for career tackle No. 214. Two plays later, Davis forced Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta'amu out of bounds on a 6-yard run to give the 5-foot-11, 233-pounder 215 career stops.

When the defense came to the sideline minutes later, following a blocked field goal by Marlon Davidson, Davis' accomplishment was relayed to both him and Williams.

"He was happy for me," Davis said. "... He told me he's proud of me and that he loves me, and he's going to stay on me and keep working."

The two have shared a strong bond since Davis' arrival on campus in 2014, when Williams was just a defensive analyst on Gus Malzahn's staff. Williams, who was also an undersized linebacker during his playing days, has always seen some of himself in Davis.

"It's always good to see a kid like him come in and earn the respect from his team in practices," Williams said in August. "Ballers are ballers. That's just what it is.... I think Deshaun Davis is rare, because you're not going to high schools looking for him. You know, you're going to have to really do your homework and really do your evaluation. You have to watch him practice and you've got to listen to the coaches. His high school coach has been saying his football IQ is off the charts. And it's shown."

Their relationship grew after Williams was elevated to linebackers coach prior to the 2016 season, a move that coincided with Davis' emergence at the position following a redshirt season in 2014 and a reserve role in 2015.

Davis, who was third on the team in tackles in 2016, led the Tigers with 82 stops last year. This season, he again leads the defense in tackles with 76 entering the bye week -- well on pace to eclipse his career mark from 2017. He finished with 13 tackles against Ole Miss, which tied his career-high set in Week 3 against LSU and gave him 226 for his career.

While tallying those stops, Davis also surpassed former Tigers Jermain Whitehead (218) and Karlos Dansby (225) on the career tackles list since 2000, where he sits at 10th all-time over the last 18 years. Making Davis' effort even more impressive against the Rebels was the fact he was playing through a lower-right leg injury, as he was hobbled after the game and wearing a protective boot on his right foot during postgame interviews.

"Sometimes it's just what you got to do," Davis said. "I know what I mean to my team. I know what I mean to my defense. Sometimes it takes a little pain to get the job done.... Sometimes you just got to play in pain."

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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2 underdogs who gave it all they had every time they stepped on the field. Would love to see DeShaun follow in Travis's footsteps one day.

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