Ian Davidson arrived at Hampton University determined to make the most of his final season of college football.
He's off to a pretty good start.
Davidson, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle who transferred to HU after four seasons, including a redshirt year, at Maryland, blocked a field goal on the final play of the Pirates' 21-20, season-opening win against Alabama A&M on Saturday.
"It was my first game as a Hampton Pirate, and coming from a D-I program, I knew I had a lot to prove to my team," said Davidson, who also had five tackles (two for loss). "Earlier in the week, our special teams coach (Michael Villagrana) and I talked, and I told him I was definitely going to try to block a field goal. He put me on all these special teams, and with the help of our D-line — they were tired and beat up, but they were able to get enough push, and I just got my hand up."
Pirate fans may well expect more big plays from Davidson, HU's starting left tackle — especially given the number on his back.
Davidson's No. 97 is the same jersey worn last year by 6-5, 346-pound defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, a third-round pick of the New York Jets after making 94 tackles and eight sacks as a senior in 2010.
"Every day I do hear, 'He's got Kenrick's number. He's got big shoes to fill,' " Davidson said. "But at the end of the day, I'm just trying to establish a new legacy, my own legacy. I got a short time to do it, but I believe I can get it done."
Davidson, a four-year starter on the offensive and defensive lines at St. Stephens & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, played sparingly at Maryland, making four tackles in four games last season. When Randy Edsall replaced Ralph Freidgen as the Terrapins' coach in January, Davidson sensed he wasn't part of Edsall's plan.
"I could see the writing on the wall," Davidson said. "A new coach wants to come in, I guess he has his own vision. There's no bad blood or anything. (Edsall) is the one who helped me find another school."
Davidson wasn't very familiar with Hampton, but did know Delbert Cowsette, the Pirates' defensive line coach in 2010 and a former Maryland assistant.
Davidson spent this summer working out with his new teammates — including linebacker Lyndell Gibson, Davidson's former ACC foe at Virginia Tech.
"(Davidson) is going to do well. I'm excited for him," HU head coach Donovan Rose said. "Nobody's going to fill Kenrick's shoes, but he's going to be his own (player) and do well. He's pretty quick, and he's got good size. There are some assets that he can bring to the table."
Davidson joins a defensive line that has experience but no clear stars.
"Our defensive line is more of a committee," Rose said. "Last week, we had about nine guys that rotated in. There's not any one guy that's dominating right now, but I think collectively, they're strong."
Against Florida A&M in Thursday's home and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener, Rose wants a stronger start from his offense, which fell behind 17-0 against Alabama A&M before rallying.
Thursday night's game against the Rattlers, one of two ESPNU games the Pirates play this season, also pits Rose, a longtime Pirates assistant, against his former boss. Joe Taylor went 136-49-1 in 16 seasons at HU before leaving for FAMU in December 2007.
"We're very good friends. He's a mentor of mine," Rose said. "I'll talk about the social aspects after the game. In the game, I'm going to shake his hand. He's going to shake mine. I'll wish him well and so forth, but this is a conference game. … I'll borrow a word from him last year. It's business."
Business will be good for HU if sophomore running back Antwon Chisholm can repeat his season-opening success (141 yards and a TD on 25 carries) and if the Pirates come through in the clutch again.
Davidson, for one, is raring to go.
"I came here ready to work," Davidson said. "(HU defensive line) coach (Darryl) Bullock and (defensive coordinator Keith) Goganious, they definitely haven't made it easy for me. They wanted it to be known early that the job wasn't going to be handed down because I wore 97."
So far, Davidson is living up to that number.
FLORIDA A&M (1-0, 0-0 MEAC) at HAMPTON (1-0, 0-0 MEAC)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. TV: ESPNU
WHERE: Armstrong Stadium, Hampton.
THE BUZZ: The Pirates and the Rattlers open Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference season play in a clash of coaches who know each other very well. Donovan Rose, whose Pirates beat Alabama A&M 21-20 on Saturday, coached for many years on the staff of Joe Taylor, whose Rattlers are coming off a 28-22 win against Fort Valley State. Taylor went 136-49-1 in 16 seasons at HU before leaving in December 2007 for FAMU, where he's gone 25-9 in three seasons. Rattlers sophomore quarterback Austin Trainor threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns last week.
PREDICTION: Florida A&M, 27-23.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun