Texans' Davis coming back strong -- as Williams

Updated: January 1, 2007, 9:33 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Domanick Davis appeared in Houston's locker room Monday with a new haircut and a new attitude. But the biggest change is in his name.

 Domanick Williams

"I'm a new man," he said. "That was Domanick Davis that y'all knew about. This is Domanick Williams that y'all looking at."

The Texans' franchise leading rusher, who spent this season on the injured reserve with a knee problem, has legally changed his last name from Davis to Williams, his mother's maiden name.

He said that Davis was the last name of the father of his older brother and he never felt right about having his name.

"I had to do it and it was time. I didn't want my kids to grow up carrying something else that I'm really not," said Williams, the father of two young children. "I felt like it was the perfect time for me to do it. Come back fresh, come back new."

He's also dumping the No. 37 jersey he's worn since arriving in Houston in 2003 to wear No. 31, which was his number throughout high school and college.

"So I'm coming back as a new person altogether," he said, sporting a short shaven haircut, after wearing braids for much of the last year. "It's going to be crazy, but I had to make my move."

Williams said he is feeling great and he can't wait to get back on the field.

"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent, but it's close," he said. "It's on its way and it's going real good. My knee is allowing me to lift heavy weight without swelling up and that was the biggest problem I had."

The 26-year-old, who has 3,195 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns in three NFL seasons, said it has been difficult to sit out for so long.

"I didn't watch not one game and it's not that I didn't care, because I care," he said. "But it was my way of dealing with it because it would hurt me in another kind of way. So I just focused on what I had to do to get myself back."

"A new name, a new haircut, new clothes -- let's hope he has a new knee," Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson joked upon hearing the news.

While Robinson's comments were in jest, the health of Williams is a big question mark for the Texans as they prepare for next season.

Williams missed five games in 2005 before undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery after his knee swelled and ached each time he played. He returned for training camp and declared himself healthy, but soon stopped practicing because of what coaches called a bone bruise in his knee.

Houston placed him on the injured reserve just days before the season, leaving a hole at the position. The Texans signed Ron Dayne two days later, but it didn't immediately help the situation as the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner was still bothered by a toe injury.

The Texans resorted to a running back by committee system, with rookie Wali Lundy, Samkon Gado and Dayne splitting carries. Dayne was finally healthy near the end of the season and had the best four-game stretch of his career, running for 429 yards and five touchdowns in that span.

The emergence of Dayne and a healthy Williams coupled with Lundy and Gado, will create a crowded backfield for the Texans and raises questions about who will remain on the team. Williams is scheduled to make $3.34 million next season in the third year of a five-year deal. Dayne is an unrestricted free agent the Texans likely could keep for much cheaper.

"I would definitely like to stay here," Dayne said. "I'm glad they gave me the opportunity and chance to come play and show what I can do."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press