DALLAS — Pono Davis played just one season at Tyler Junior College (2016), but the lessons from his time as an Apache continue to resonate for the SMU senior.
“It (my season there) was very humbling. It really sat me down, made me realize you got to put in the work in order to get results,” Davis said. “So, just taking the steps, being where I need to be, doing what you’re supposed to do, always getting extra work. That’s always set that foundation of working hard, getting in the classroom, doing things right and just setting an example for the rest of your teammates. That really just set that humble foundation for me.”
Davis, a 6-2, 298-pound defensive tackle who started 10 of 12 games for the Mustangs in 2018 with 22 tackles, two for loss, has delivered two solid seasons on the Hilltop, including a sophomore campaign where he started 12 of 13 games.
His SMU tenure has also seen a coaching change after Chad Morris, who recruited him and coached him as a sophomore, bolted for Arkansas after the 2017 season. Sonny Dykes is now in his second season coaching the Ponies, and if there’s one thing Davis, who had two tackles in the 2017 Frisco Bowl, wants before he leaves SMU, it’s the opportunity to play an extra game or two as a senior.
“Well, there’s a lot to go,” he said. “We want to go (win) conference, we want to go (win a) bowl game. I don’t feel like we’ve done enough yet. I’m just excited to see what we got coming up this season.”
Davis admits this being his final season hasn’t yet dawned on him. But instead of dwelling on the bigger picture, he prefers to stay in the present, focusing on one day at a time by breaking that down to one repetition and one play at a time.
This season, he also has a new defensive line coach in former SMU standout Randall Joyner, who shifts responsibilities after working last season with the defensive ends. Davis has quickly taken to Joyner’s style, a change he considers a huge positive for he and his fellow linemen.
“I love it. It’s exciting just because we’re moving fast, getting the knee braces off, being able to get in that backfield, do more pass rush instead of just focusing on the run as much,” he said. “I love the way coach Joyner coaches, high-energy guy, (he’s) got the juice. It’s awesome.”
Another positive change is that SMU now has an indoor practice facility for the first time and being able to go indoors on a hot day or later in the season on a rainy or freezing day is a welcome departure from the days when if the Mustangs wanted to go indoors, they had to travel to a neighboring high school to use their facility.
“Love it. It’s nice,” Davis said. “Hopefully we get to get in there as much as we can, but it’s also good to get out here in the sun and the heat.”
Asked if there’s one game on the 2019 schedule he has circled, the ex-Apache said it’s the Oct. 19 visit from Temple, who now employs his former defensive line coach, Brett Diersen, and has a high school teammate, Joseph Hooper, from back in Hawaii, on their offensive line.
“I love that guy (Diersen) but we got to take that W from him,” Davis said. “He (Hooper) was one of those guys that looked up to me when I was a senior. I’ve been talking to him back and forth about we’re playing against each other this season. He plays O-line, so hopefully I get to play against him.”
Besides wanting to finish his collegiate career by playing for an American Athletic Conference championship and by winning a bowl game, Pono Davis also wants to continue doing what has defined his first two seasons at SMU-being a defensive force for the Ponies.
“Just getting in that backfield, being disruptive, making plays, being with my teammates, finishing up strong and making plays (is what I want to do),” he said.
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco.
2019 SMU Football Schedule
Aug. 31 — at Arkansas State 6 p.m. (ESPN+)
Sept. 7 — North Texas 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 14 — Texas State 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 21 — at TCU TBD
- Sept. 28 — at South Florida TBD
- Oct. 5 — Tulsa TBD
- Oct. 19 — Temple TBD
- Oct. 24 — at Houston 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
- Nov. 2 — at Memphis TBD
- Nov. 9 — East Carolina TBD
- Nov. 23 — at Navy 2:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
- Nov. 30 — Tulane TBD
All home games at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas
American Athletic Conference game