Phil Steele named Jon Davis a third-team Freshman All-American after the Louisville native caught 22 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown as a tight end in 2011. He's listed at that position again entering today's season opener against Western Michigan, but chances are you'll see him line up at wide receiver and running back, too, under new coach Tim Beckman. The sophomore could be one of the breakout stars in Illinois' offense that will need some playmakers to emerge after the graduation of first-round pick A.J. Jenkins.
Should we call you a tight end or a receiver? I think I want to be called a tight end because that's where I started. I work with the tight ends every day; we work hard every day in practice, so for now just call me a tight end.
You played some running back in high school, do you want to carry the ball at Illinois? Definitely. It was fun when I did it in high school, I think it will be fun now to pick up some yards on the ground.
Are there plays in for you? There's times when I ran the ball; in the spring game I ran the ball.
If I said you're going to catch 60 passes this season, would you go higher or lower? Before the season, I said I wanted to catch 50. But, if you say 60, I'm going for 60 now.
Give me your 2012 dream season. The dream season would definitely be Rose Bowl. That's what I've been dreaming about since I got here. I just want to be at the Rose Bowl playing in the big game.
What about personally? I haven't really thought about that.
A.J. (Jenkins) had 1,000 yards last year. Do tight ends think about that number? I think anybody's (capable) of having great numbers like that. A.J. had an incredible season. Everyone's got to step up on the offense and I want to be one of those guys.
Don't you need a nickname? I think I've already got one, I'm trying to self-promote it: JD3. If you could help me get that out there.
Has anybody else called you that? It started back in high school, a couple of guys in the locker room call me JD3, so I'm trying to keep it going.
You came from Louisville; is it weird playing in the North? It's not that weird, it's not that far. I think Louisville is kind of in the middle of a lot of different cities: Indianapolis, St. Louis. I'm originally from all over, I've moved so many different places. I was born in Georgia, moved to Missouri, then I went east to New Jersey and then Kentucky.
Why all the moves? My dad's job. He's a plant manager. He's now working for Pinnacle Foods down in Tennessee.
Take me through your recruitment because I think you originally committed to someone. Yes, or no? I committed to Kentucky fairly early, my junior year. My senior year, I started looking toward different schools and narrowed it down to Kentucky, Louisville and Illinois. Illinois seemed to be the best fit.
Was Louisville a place you had ever committed to? No.
Illinois was late, right? My visit was a maybe a week — it was fairly close to signing day. I made my decision within that week. I was close with the coaching staff at the time. I really liked the academic (side) and being in the Big Ten.
What's your favorite thing about Champaign-Urbana? The campus. Everything's kind of (contained). If you go to different places, everything is city and kind of spread out.
What do you miss most about Louisville? Just my friends back home.
How many times have you been to the Kentucky Derby? Probably 10.
In the infield, in the stands? Well, the actual Kentucky Derby, probably once. I've been to the track a whole bunch of times. I was actually working a fundraiser for the football team, we had to show people around.
Did you get to see the race? No.
Have you ever tried a mint julep? I don't even know what a mint julep is.
Do you own a Louisville Slugger? I know my dad has one in the basement. I think it was an award he won.
So you're not a baseball guy? I played baseball all the way up until freshman year.
The fancy arena in Louisville is called the KFC Yum! Center, is that kind of embarrassing? (Laughs) I've heard it's kind of nice. It's a cool place.
Would you like Illinois to schedule Louisville or Kentucky? Yeah, I think it would be fun to play some of my friends back home.
Spending time there, are you a big basketball fan? I played basketball all the way through senior year. I'm probably not that big of a fan, but I definitely follow basketball.
I'm going to assume you can play a little bit. Who else is on your Illinois football all-star basketball team? We've been trying to set up a game with my class against all the other classes. I'm definitely taking all my guys. I'm taking Reilly (O'Toole), Matt LaCosse, Josh Ferguson, Darius Caldwell. Probably Donovonn (Young) to lock down someone (on defense).
You got some shooters? Reilly can shoot.
So, all your superstar sophomore guys, could they beat John Groce's Illini? I don't think we could beat them, but we'd give them a run for their money. It would definitely be physical.
What's been the biggest change with Tim Beckman in charge as opposed to what it was a year ago? I think the energy level. Coach Beckman brings a lot of energy. You can just tell when he addresses the team that he has a lot of energy.
Have you had any contact with the old staff? No, I haven't.
Is that kind of normal, you all just move on? Yeah.
Who was your position coach? Chip Long, he's at Arizona State.
The tight end position is deep and talented; who's the smartest guy in the group? I think our newest tight end, Timmy (Russell). We rely on him a lot.
Who has the best sense of humor? Probably Evan, he's always trying to play a joke on somebody.
Who does the best with women? (Laughs) I'd probably say Eddie (Viliunas).
What are you doing on Dec. 1? Playing in the Big Ten championship.
You're wearing the bracelet, so you believe it? We definitely believe it. There's no reason to play if we don't.
You turn 20 the day after the Arizona State game, any big plans? Get that 'W', then we'll have to figure everything out.
What's the 'A' (middle name) stand for? Alan.
Is that named after anyone in particular? No.
Who's your favorite female entertainer? Mila Kunis.
A night on the town with Mila Kunis, or 10 catches in a win against Western Michigan? I've got to take the 10 catches. Maybe Mila Kunis will see me after the game.
Tell me something people don't know about you. I can't really swim. I can't swim at all. It's pretty bad.
Didn't you guys go to the pool? What did you do? I tried to stay on my floatie as much as possible.
Why? I think I took too many years off. I remember I could swim as a kid. Recently, I tried to get in the pool and it didn't work.
Can the rest of your family swim? Yeah, most of them can.
If you get in the water, are you worried? If I get too far out, yeah. If my feet aren't touching, I get worried.
Tell me something people don't know about one of your teammates. Something embarrassing. Nate (Scheelhaase) can sing. He likes to sing R&B in the locker room.
Do the guys like it? No. He thinks he can sing, that's what I meant to say. But he really can't sing at all and he still sings.
Do people tell him to shut up? He's right next to Miles (Osei) and Miles just puts on his headphones.