AUBURN, Ala. — There was no question Marlon Davidson wanted to play against Georgia Southern, but after suffering a preseason injury, he didn’t stress about whether he would take the field for Auburn football in Week 1.
“My coaches, they wanted to be very cautious with me this week,” Davidson said after the Tigers’ 41-7 win on Saturday. “I wanted to get in the rotation and make plays. Like I told them, it was up to them to play me. If they don’t, it’s OK. If they do, that’s great.”
Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele voiced a slight concern in the days leading up to the home opener about Davidson’s conditioning after a non-contact knee injury sidelined him for some a stretch of fall camp.
Yet even while wearing bulky braces on his right knee and elbow, the sophomore played without a glimpse of hesitation or fear.
“My mindset is different,” Davidson said about playing in games — especially inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. “I don’t feel like I get tired at all when it comes to game day. Maybe at practice, I might get tired then. But in a game, I feel like I’m ready to go all the time.”
Rarely, if ever, did Davidson look fatigued. He recorded 4 total tackles, 2 of which were sacks, and tabbed a quarterback hurry on the night.
Teammates and fans who watched Davidson terrorize quarterbacks in the SEC as a freshman in 2016 knew the Greenville, Ala., native was tough. But it was still an impressive showing for someone who was a game-day decision.
“I was impressed,” junior Jeff Holland said. “I knew he was OK. Marlon, he’s a fighter. I knew he was going to be alright.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn offered praise after Davidson and the defense put together a historic performance, too.
“He’s mature beyond his years,” Malzahn said. “He’s a young guy that plays like an old guy. He’s a great competitor, he’s got great technique, and he’s tough. We’re real pleased with him.”
Still, what was most visible was the fun he had. One of the more lively leaders of Steele’s defense was as animated as ever, and understandably so.
Davidson isn’t taking one second in an orange and blue jersey for granted after fearing his season could slip away in early August. That will be even more true next weekend.
The 6-foot-3, 283-pound defensive lineman recorded his first-ever college tackle against eventual national champion Clemson last September. He’s going to be a key piece to the puzzle as Auburn tries to upset the No. 5 Tigers.
And he’s going to enjoy every minute in the throes of Death Valley.
“Yes, of course. I could’ve had a season-ending injury. Just to come back and fun like that, and be excited to play, it’s great man,” he said. “There’s nothing like being back on the field.”
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