<
>

Clemson running back Davis to enter NFL draft

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The "Thunder" is leaving Death Valley.

James Davis, part of Clemson's "Thunder and Lightning"
backfield the past two years, has decided to give up his senior
season to enter April's NFL draft.

"I can't lie to you, it was really hard for me just to leave
here," Davis said Wednesday night after meeting with coach Tommy
Bowden for about 30 minutes. "I've been thinking about it every
day."

Davis was projected as a third-round pick by the NFL and Bowden
thought it was his player's best interest to remain one more
season.

"But I'm going to totally support the decision and I'm going to
encourage him to come back and get his degree," Bowden said.

Davis said he isn't concerned about other high-profile juniors
runners who have entered the draft like Ray Rice of Rutgers and
Kevin Smith of Central Florida.

"If I was concerned about that, I'd probably stay in school,"
Davis said. "I feel like I played healthy this whole season and I
did a lot as far as being consistent. That's something I looked
at."

Davis struggled with the choice since Clemson's 23-20 overtime
loss to Auburn at the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve. He met
twice with his family and made a trip to Florida to clear his head.

Part of the reason was financial, said Davis, who has a
1-year-old daughter. A bigger reason was Davis' goal of playing in
the NFL.

"It's my dream, man," he said.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Davis led the Tigers in rushing the
past three years, going past the 1,000-yard mark in 2006 and 2007.
He finished with 38 touchdowns, second on Clemson's career list.

Without Davis, the bulk of the running load next year falls to
sophomore C.J. Spiller, who's speed and ability to juke defenders
gained him the nickname, "Lightning."

Davis was in regular contact with Spiller, who was supportive of
the move.

"He learned a lot from me and I think he'll do well," Davis
said.