MOST PEOPLE wince as replays on NFL broadcasts show players'
joints buckling and bones breaking. But Jacksonville defensive
tackle Don Davey often finds himself leaning in for a closer
look at the carnage. "Future clients," says Davey, who did
extensive work with prosthetics while earning his master's
degree in mechanical engineering. "With all the injuries to
knees, hips and other stuff I've seen teammates and opponents go
through, I might be a busy guy someday helping to rebuild bodies."
During the summer of 1994, Davey, who was then with the Packers,
interned with an orthopedic surgeon in Green Bay while he worked
on his master's at Wisconsin. Davey helped the orthopedist build
a device that measures the strength of anterior cruciate
ligaments during rehabilitation after surgery. He tested the
device on cows to measure which method of ACL repair worked
best. "I now know enough about ACLs that if mine goes, I can fix
it myself," he says, only half joking.
Davey is the only four-time Academic All-America at the major
college level in NCAA football history--the four academic gold
medallion trophies he won at Wisconsin sit proudly atop his desk
in his Jacksonville home--and he has always enjoyed taking on
challenges. As a seven-year-old he started taking apart and
rebuilding most of his family's appliances. "I can remember Mom
looking for the toaster and finding me with it in the living
room, [the toaster] spread out in a hundred pieces," he says.
Davey graduated with a perfect 4.0 from Lincoln High in
Manitowoc, Wis., and finished college with a 3.46 GPA in
mechanical engineering while leading the Big Ten in sacks his
The Packers selected Davey in the third round of the 1991 draft.
While in Green Bay he honed his skills in the shadow of future
Hall of Famer Reggie White while doing off-season internships as
part of his grad school work. Last summer he interned at Krueger
International, an office-furniture manufacturer in Green Bay,
where he redesigned the tilt mechanism of an entire line of
chairs. "We tore apart the chairs, studied the flaw and rebuilt
them," says Davey.
The Jags signed the free-agent lineman last February hoping that
he could help build up their defensive line. Each week Davey
takes the task of breaking down an opponent's schemes as a
personal challenge, tearing into game film and looking for
structural flaws in an attack almost as vigorously as he goes
after ballcarriers. His cerebral approach, coupled with his
agile 6'4", 275-pound frame, has helped Davey to excel in his
first season as a full-time NFL starter.
Looking ahead to an off-season in Florida, Davey has thought
about where he might be headed. "Cape Canaveral is just 140
miles south of Jacksonville," he says. "I wouldn't mind taking
in a space-shuttle launch. Or maybe landing an aerospace
engineering internship with NASA."
COLOR PHOTO: BEN VAN HOOK The Jaguar defensive tackle hopes to engineer an internship with NASA next year. [Don Davey]