As Nebraska's defensive linemen sweated through drill work late last week in Hawks Championship Center, twins Carlos and Khalil Davis had to cut out early.
Safe to say it was an excused absence.
The Davis brothers walked a few steps over to Ed Weir Stadium, where the Husker track and field teams prepared for the upcoming NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas. Carlos Davis will compete in the discus throw at the national meet for a second straight year, while Khalil is a first-time national qualifier in the same event.
Hey, Carlos, any tips for Khalil?
“The hardest part was getting to nationals," Carlos said. "Regionals is no joke. You only get three throws. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. My first throw was not good. But I have to warm up to get into things for the discus. I was able to get one. Now we can just have fun. We can enjoy the trip, enjoy the scenery and just throw big.”
Carlos Davis finished fourth last week in the NCAA West preliminaries in Sacramento, California, thanks to a personal-best toss of 191 feet, 11 inches -- which ranks ninth on NU's all-time list. Khalil finished 10th with a throw of 181-11.
The top eight finishers in Austin will earn first-team All-America status. Carlos finished 23rd last year in Eugene, Oregon.
“I want to be first team just because last year when I went, the weather was not good," he said. "That was my first time throwing in something other than sunny weather. They moved the meet to Austin this year, there’s going to be good weather, so I’m just trying to throw big and get that first-team All-American (status).”
The Davis twins, set to enter their senior seasons on the Nebraska football team, both express gratitude that their football coaches through the years -- they've played for two head coaches and three defensive coordinators -- have allowed them to compete in track and field. As they gear for nationals, they simultaneously participate in NU football strength coach Zach Duval's off-season program, although their workouts are modified with discus competition in mind.
Gary Pepin, the Huskers' Hall of Fame track and field coach, continues to make it clear he would like to see more NU football players on his team. He notes he has only 12½ scholarships to offer and 21 events to fill.
“I don’t think that it’s that difficult to do," he said last week. "But I’m not in that position where a football coach is telling me I’ve got to go to all these meetings or I’ve got to be to this and that. But I do know a lot of the very best teams in track and field that we compete against, they’ve had football players on their teams for years and years and years -- in the sprints, in the hurdles occasionally, in the throws. Maybe it’s a high jumper or long jumper.
“We just haven’t gotten many for a long, long time.”
The Davis brothers are jovial sorts -- which Pepin appreciates as a program leader.
“What impresses me probably the most is what fun guys and nice guys they are," the coach said. "I really enjoy having them on the team. Everybody knew they were really good and gifted athletes. But I think they’re a really positive factor to have on the team. That's great. They’re well-disciplined. They’re good competitors. They’re a lot of fun. The kids like them.
“I’ve been here a long time, and a few times during those 39 years we’ve had a few football players who’ve come out and done well -- not near as many as what a lot of our opponents have," he added. "But with a new (football) staff in there, I think we’ll start getting more of the same kind of athletes out of that group.
“We certainly told Scott Frost we want to work and help him out when we can, get some speed and some great athletes on the team.”
The Davis brothers certainly qualify as standout athletes, with most of their heavy lifting occurring on fall Saturdays. Carlos started all but three of Nebraska's 24 games the past two seasons, recording 69 tackles in that span, with 3½ sacks.
Khalil, still seeking his first career start, enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, when he led the NU defensive line with a career-high 41 tackles, more than doubling his career total entering the year. He also posted career highs with eight tackles for loss, three sacks and four quarterback hurries. He says he welcomes a chance sometimes to "plug out" of football and compete in something else.
As he trained Thursday, a few of Nebraska's defensive linemen came over from the Hawks Championship Center. It's clearly a tight-knit group.
"You can get worn out in a sport like football," Khalil Davis said. "This is just good relief. But we don't want to be gone too long because football is still our number one sport. We always love to get back."