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thedrifter
01-27-09, 06:14 AM
Heavy artillery: Cal defensive end served three years in Marines
Bret Bloomquist / El Paso Times
El Paso Times
Posted:01/26/2009 11:37:10 PM MST

EL PASO -- Throughout his football career, Rulon Davis heard the complaints familiar to any football practice.

It's too hot. This is too hard. This is work.

"That," the former Cal defensive lineman said, "is a little ridiculous."

Here's hard: Davis spent three years in the Marines, and six months of that time in Iraq. He was an avionics technician, working on helicopters, but he also had to patrol places no one wants to patrol.

"It was scary," Davis said of 2004, when he did his tour in Iraq. "It was hot, a place you didn't want to be. Miserable.

"But Marines adapt and overcome. We did our jobs and, thank God, I came home alive."

The worst part?

"Getting shot at," he said. "That's something you don't want to happen."

Despite the hardships, though, those three years did represent the fulfillment of a dream.=

"I always wanted to be a Marine," said Davis, who spent two years at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, which helps explain why the Californian is competing for the Texas team this week.

That obviously gives Davis a different perspective on the tribulations of playing football, and that has served him well in his playing career.

After serving three years in the Marines, he attended Mt. Sac Community College near Los Angeles while completing reserve duty, then made the jump to Cal.

He's battled injuries throughout his three years there, but he returned from a foot problem this year and started in the Emerald Bowl victory against Miami. He was named the team's most improved defensive lineman.

"The Marines prepared me," Davis said. "Mental toughness, focus, camaraderie, competitiveness, leadership. I learned all that in the Marine Corps."

What the Marines didn't prepare him for was the culture of attending school in Berkley, perhaps the most liberal campus in America.

"That was a shock to the system," Davis said. "I'm used to people saying, 'Good job, we love the military, thanks for what you do,' to people saying, 'I don't know about that.'

"But I picked Cal because it's a good school, a good opportunity, and I wanted to stay in California."

This game is another opportunity for him. Davis recorded four sacks this year despite playing just nine games, and while his troubles with injuries could hurt his stock, he does have a 33-inch vertical leap that is Cal's program record for defensive linemen. And his character, loyalty and commitment will be big-time assets in the eyes of pro scouts. ESPN draft guru Todd McShay put him on a list of five rising prospects, writing "Considering his combination of size, power and speed, it won't be surprising if Davis shoots up a lot of draft boards between now and April."

That's certainly Davis' new dream.

"This is something I've wanted to do since I started playing," he said. "I've wanted a chance to play in the NFL."

This week represents his chance to get that chance.

Bret Bloomquist may be reached at bbloomquist@elpasotimes.com;546-6359.

Ellie