TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — She was in the hospital giving birth, but a second attraction was in the room.
The Iron Bowl was being played that day and, being in the state of Alabama, the television had to be tuned to the game.
“And everyone was watching it,” Cameron Eldridge said, “except me.”
Baby Jason just couldn’t wait.
He entered the world about the time Trent Richardson’s second-quarter touchdown cut the Auburn lead to 14-7.
And somewhere on the Alabama sideline, life for defensive end Luther Davis changed yet again.
For the second time in one season, his family grew.
Just four months earlier, Davis was preparing for the season-opener against Virginia Tech when his twin sons, Shyron Rayne and Jacquel Lyriq, were born.
Now, the father of three is about to take on yet another challenge as the only senior among the projected starting defensive unit for the defending national champions.
To put it lightly, his life sure has changed a lot in the span of a year.
Then, Davis was your average student-athlete preparing to back up a veteran defensive line.
Now, he is a father of three, a projected starter and the most senior member of a defensive unit undergoing a major makeover.
“Being a student-athlete is enough,” Davis said. “But since I’ve become a father, it’s pretty difficult. It gets difficult at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I love my boys.”
With practice under way, the home Davis and Eldridge share is relatively quiet as Jason stays with her parents in Montgomery and the twins are with Davis’ mother in Louisiana.
Distance couldn’t keep Davis from checking in with Shyron and Jacquel before practice Thursday morning.
“I called them this morning before I came up here for some inspiration,” he said. “I just hear that ‘dah-dah,’ and it does my heart good every time.
“I come out here with a different attitude. … It’s no longer about me. Everything I do is about them.”
When the kids are in town, Davis’ pressed schedule is tested more with kids running and crawling around.
The party scene is deep in his memory now because he hasn’t been to a team function since his sophomore year.
“They have their times when they wake up at 5 in the morning and want to play,” Davis said, “Then when I’m up and ready to go, they go back to sleep. It’s kind of a game they’re playing with me.”
Now, he is a senior and his long-awaited opportunity to start is here. As a backup defensive end playing behind Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Deaderick, Davis collected 11 tackles as a junior and 12 as a sophomore.
He played six games as a freshman, but coach Nick Saban called him a “prime example” for a player who would have benefited from spending a year developing before seeing game action. But when the depth wasn’t a luxury, Davis was forced into action.
Now, he’s more than ready.
And despite everything else swirling in his universe, Davis said he became a better student of football as he matured into the old man on the defense.
Quarterback Greg McElroy can tell a difference in his practice opponent.
“Luther’s biggest hurdle since he got here wasn’t talent because the talent has always been there,” he said. “He just had a tough time transitioning into the mind-set. Ever since then, Luther has made a full change. It’s unbelievable how far he’s come.
“He’s vocal. He’s being a leader. He’s going to have to be a guy that steps up for us on the d-line this year, and I think he understands that.”
Saban took it a step further.
“What Luther has done, I think, is one of the outstanding jobs of all of our players in terms of making me, as a coach, proud of what he’s accomplished, where he’s come, what’s he’s done, how he’s worked and how he’s developed.”
There likely isn’t anyone who wants to see Davis succeed on the football field more than his fiancée. It’s to the point that she doesn’t always return his phone calls during the season.
But it all comes from a loving place.
“I don’t want to get him distracted,” she said. “Just do what he’s doing. I want him focused on that as well as be a student.”
She takes care of the kids while Davis is at practice or at school while remaining a President’s List student herself .
The twins, with whom Davis shares custody with their mother, got plenty of attention right from the beginning. They lived with Davis’ mother until January when they came to live in Tuscaloosa. Godfather Terrence Cody helped the new father stay focused on the Virginia Tech game with everything else going on. The two keep in touch by text message, now that Cody is with the Baltimore Ravens.
Projected starting nose tackle Josh Chapman also loves being around the kids. Davis’ freshman roommate remains one of his best friends.
“We just all take care of each other,” Chapman said. “We all feel like we’re family.
“ Long down the road, his kids will play with my kids and so on.”
But there’s a season to play. So wedding bells won’t ring until the spring for Davis and his family. By then, he expects to have his degree in sports management a semester early.
And, if all goes as planned, another piece of jewelry will go with that wedding band.