TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Luther Davis had to make an important phone call before he was ready for Alabama's first practice of preseason camp.
He needed to hear his two little boys say "Dah-dah."
"It does my heart good each time," Davis said. "I just came out here with a different attitude. It's going to be the same attitude I'm going to have every day, because it's no longer about me. Everything I do is for them."
The Crimson Tide's senior defensive end has a lot more responsibility these days. He's poised to be a starter for the first time on the field, and he's pulling double daddy duty off it.
Davis' twin sons, Shyron Rayne and Jacquel Lyriq, were born a few days before the Tide's opener last season. They live with him and his fiance, Cameron Eldridge. This week, they were visiting family in Louisiana, where they lived until January.
Davis isn't complaining about the heavy load, lost sleep or having to miss nights out with his teammates and friends.
"I've definitely enjoyed it," Davis said. "It's helped me grow as a person. I think a lot of the guys on the team, they respect everything I have to do. Being a student-athlete is enough, but at the same time going home and being a father, it's pretty difficult. But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I love my boys to death."
In fact, he credits fatherhood with helping him to mature as a player, too.
The career backup is the likely replacement to end Lorenzo Washington. Davis has played in 34 games, but never started one.
That should change when the Tide opens Sept. 4 against San Jose State.
Quarterback Greg McElroy predicts Davis will be "a big-time contributor this year."
"Luther's biggest hurdle in the time he's been here hasn't been talent, because the talent's always been there," McElroy said. "Luther's biggest hurdle when he got here was he just had a tough time transitioning into the mindset. Luther, ever since then, has made a full change. It's unbelievable how far he's come.
"He looks great. He's vocal. He's being a leader. He's a guy that's going to have to step up on the D-line for us and I think he understands that and he's grasping that role."
There's a certain irony since Tide coach Nick Saban said when Davis signed with Alabama after initially committing to LSU that "it was important to him that he had an opportunity to play early in his career."
Now, patience and the maturation process appear set to pay off.
Eldridge takes care of the twins -- who are from a previous relationship -- during the day.
"She does a great job of making me focus on ball," Davis said. "She doesn't even like me talking about it. If she sees this, she's probably going to kill me."
He's become a homebody when other students are partying.
"I haven't even been to a team party since my sophomore year," Davis said. "That life is long gone from me. I'm all about just being the person I am and just trying to serve the Lord."
He's also trying to make a big career leap for a player who doesn't have a career sack. The 6-foot-3, 279-pounder isn't even the biggest question mark on the line, though.
That honor goes to the opposite side, with Marcell Dareus. Dareus, MVP of the national championship game, is still in limbo for the start of the season pending the outcome of an NCAA investigation stemming from a trip to Miami.
Davis said Dareus' demeanor hasn't changed with all that going on.
"There's not any difference to him," Davis said. "(He's still) playing around, watching cartoons. He's such a laid-back, lovable person. He's just a good guy. A lot of people try to make him out to be something he's not. I know in my heart what type of person he is and every player on the team knows what type of person he is."
As for the trip: "He hasn't talked much about it and I haven't asked him, because it's really not much of an issue. It's just something that occurred or didn't occur, I don't know. But he's just being himself."