Wyatt Davis will be playing about only 20 miles from home when he lines up at right guard for Ohio State in the Rose Bowl against Washington.
He still will have come a long way.
Davis was a five-star recruit for the Buckeyes two years ago out of Bellflower, California, a future star based on potential and pedigree. His grandfather is Willie Davis, a Green Bay Packers defensive end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
But Wyatt Davis took his lumps when he arrived at Ohio State. He struggled with conditioning last season and ended up redshirting.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
He then emerged this season as the offensive line’s top backup. When right guard Demetrius Knox suffered a season-ending foot injury late against Michigan, Davis replaced him for the Buckeyes’ Big Ten championship game victory over Northwestern.
“I told ‘Meech’ (Knox) I was going to get him this ring,” he said in the postgame locker room. “The fact we came out and did it just meant the world to me. The feeling is unreal.”
Davis said he was more nervous the day before the game than during it. But nothing prepared him for how he felt when he stepped onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with the Big Ten title at stake.
“I remember during warm-ups, it was sending chills down my spine, like, ‘This is my first game starting and this is what I’m getting into,’ ” he said.
Davis wasn’t flawless against Northwestern. He mentioned one play near the goal line in which he didn’t make a pull block properly, though J.K. Dobbins still scored.
But after the game, Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa didn’t need prodding to gush about Davis.
“Two things excited me,” he said. “He was pretty physical, and he didn’t shy away (from the moment). His eyes weren’t wide. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh wow, I’m on a big stage.’ That shows a level of maturity and confidence that I think he has finally achieved.”
Studrawa was encouraged that Davis was able to identify his mistakes when he came to the sideline.
“He performed great,” senior right tackle Isaiah Prince said. “It started with his practice habits. He has been a hard worker and when your number is called, you have got to be ready. Wyatt was prepared for this moment. He took it and ran with it.”
Davis was used to overpowering defensive linemen in high school. It was a rude awakening when he realized he couldn’t do the same thing when arrived in college. He said that watching and learning from linemen such as Billy Price was both daunting and inspiring.
“It was almost like I was star-struck in a sense, like, ‘Wow, this is the standard,’ ” Davis said. “I still feel like I’m nowhere near that because I’ve still got a lot of improvement to do.”
That is true, but Studrawa believes Davis is on the cusp of becoming a special player.
“I think he’s going to soar,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a fantastic player. He can be as good as he wants to be. If he works like he worked the last four weeks to get to where he is right now, he’ll be as good a player as we’ve had in a long time.”