From walk-on to standout at Southern Miss, Austin Davis posted a 30-15 record as a four-year starter at quarterback for the Golden Eagles (2008-2011), rewriting the school's passing record books along the way that included a school-record 10,892 yards throwing and 83 career touchdown passes among his achievements.
Davis had to fight to earn his spot as a starting quarterback at Southern Miss and the experience is serving him well.
SouthernMiss.com had a chance to catch up with Austin Davis, who is now in the NFL as a member of the Miami Dolphins practice squad.
SouthernMiss.com (SM): What did you learn at Southern Miss that helped you elevate to the next level and prepare you for the NFL?
Austin Davis (AD): It's hard to say just one thing, I learned a lot playing there and just to be a Golden Eagle is really special to me. I learned that it doesn't matter where you come from or how you got there. I walked on at Southern Miss, I had to earn my stripes and earn my spot there and I think that mentality of trying to prove yourself and that you belong has helped during my career at Southern Miss and now with the Rams. I always have the mindset that I am fighting for my position. That helps you prepare and leaves you with a chip on your shoulder.
SM: How important is it to show your pride for Southern Miss to your NFL teammates that may have played for larger programs?
AD: I think representing Southern Miss at this level means a lot. The neat thing about Southern Miss is that we're not a big school ... an automatic qualifying conference, but people know who Southern Miss is and they know about the football tradition and that's special to me; to be a part of that means a lot.
I enjoyed my five years there; I'd do anything to do it all over again. It was a lot of fun. I got a chance to play on some really good football teams and play for some really great coaches. It was all around a great experience.
SM: What advice do you have for the returning players from last year's team?
AD: You treat it like you do every year: The past year is over ... even if you won all 12 games, that year's over. It's a new year. Every team is zero and zero going into the season. Our motto, I'll never forget it, was 1 and 0. Every single week, didn't matter what our record was going into that game or whether it was the first or last game, after that night we wanted to be 1-0. From what I've gathered, I think they've put last year behind them and they're ready to go out this year and play Southern Miss football and prove that we belong. I'm excited to watch them.
SM: Have you had a chance to meet Head Coach Todd Monken?
AD: I haven't had the chance to meet him, but I have heard nothing but good things about him, so that's exciting. From what I have heard is that he's done his role in changing the culture and reminding the guys how to win again. I remember listening to a press conference from when he was hired and he talked about how these guys haven't forgotten how to win. All the guys that were on last year's team were potentially on the team the year before that, so they know how to win and they just need to be reminded and get the positive energy going again. A win or two will get everything back to normal and I'm excited about watching them succeed.
SM: What does it mean to play in Hattiesburg where the community and fan base supports and rallies around the team?
AD: That's what makes college football so great is the small town rallying around their team. Southern Miss makes Hattiesburg the city that it is.
I think for everyone to be behind the team, speaks volumes of where we're headed as a football program and how things are going to go. No one would have predicted last year, but that year's behind us and there's a new year ahead of us and the fans are excited. I don't see any reason why we can't pick up where we left off two years ago with another great season.
SM: How closely do you follow Southern Miss football now that you're in the NFL?
AD: Last year I actually signed up for a sports package on TV so I could watch a lot of games. Most Saturdays I'll be traveling, but nowadays with technology, I can keep up with the scores on my phone. Last year I followed every game and I will this year as well and I'm looking forward to that.
SM: You were a C-USA All Academic Team member when you played at Southern Miss. Could you talk a little bit about your experience as a student athlete?
AD: s a football player you always want to go somewhere that wins football games and has a great football tradition, but the unique thing about Southern Miss is that they are consistently good on the football field and they graduate a very high percentage of players, I think it was around 90 percent when I was there. For me, I think it all kind of goes together. If you're going to be successful off the field, that's going to carry over on the field. It's hard to do one and not the other.
I never even thought about playing football in the NFL. I enjoyed playing high-school football and I wanted to go to college to get a degree. I was fortunate enough to earn a scholarship and get that degree paid for, but I had no idea I would ever end up in the NFL. With that in mind, you want to get a degree and work hard in school and be prepared for whatever's next. In my situation I'm lucky enough to put that off for maybe a few years to chase a dream and play in the NFL, just as a bonus really. Southern Miss did a lot to prepare me for the NFL, but also to prepare me for whatever comes after football.
SM: Looking back at your career at Southern Miss, coming on as a walk on, winning the Conference Championship, and making it to the NFL, was Southern Miss the best place for you to play football?
AD: Absolutely. I loved playing football at Southern Miss. I loved being the quarterback there. I loved being the underdog a little bit, as a team. From a state perspective you're still a small school, from a conference perspective, in the South East, your not the SEC so your always being overlooked or challenged and I think that builds a lot of character and a lot of the guys I played with felt the same way.
I think Southern Miss is a really, really special place. Growing up I didn't know where I wanted to go, but you always want to go to the big schools, Alabama or Auburn, but after I went and played for Southern Miss I wouldn't change it for anything.
SM: What is you fondest memory about your time at Southern Miss?
AD: It's really hard to top the day we won the conference championship my last year. That was a goal that we had every single year and, really, I felt like we had the team to accomplish it every single year, but we kept falling short. For it to all come together that last year and for us to make a really good run and to see the fan base rally around us and to go to Houston and beat an undefeated, nationally ranked football team to win the conference was a really special, special moment for me and the rest of my teammates. I don't think any of us will ever forget that day.