PINEHURST — Butch Davis says he feels strong and ready for Carolina's summer football camp to begin in August, despite undergoing a series of chemotherapy treatments for cancer since this past winter.
His chemotherapy is completed, and he is exercising regularly and regaining his strength, Davis said.
"I feel great," Davis said on Monday at the ACC's annual Football Kickoff, which is being held at the Pinehurst Resort. "I've been working with an exercise physiologist who has a Ph.D. He works with cancer patients.
"He is an awesome guy. He has taken me under his wing. He predominantly works with women with breast cancer. He has a government study. He has a whole program. He has been taking me either in the mornings and afternoons four or five days a week, and we got up to where we were doing three or four miles walking in the heat of the day, exercising, lifting.
"I do. I feel good. The more I exercise, the better I actually feel. The worst I felt in the last three or four months was the four or five days I became a couch potato on vacation."
Davis was named as the Tar Heels' head coach last November, and then just before spring practice began he announced he had been diagnosed with cancer.
There is no solid evidence that opposing recruiters used his health against him, but there has been speculation it may have occurred. Davis said he doesn't have any knowledge of someone doing that. If someone did, though, Davis predicted it will be a failed strategy.
"I'd like to hope no one did," Davis said. "If they did, they made a mistake."
Senior Joe Dailey, who moved from quarterback to wide receiver in the spring, said the way Davis handled himself throughout this ordeal has proven to be an inspiration to the team.
"When we initially heard, we weren't sure what it was," Dailey said. "He made it sound as though it wasn't that big of a deal, so that is how we went about it."
But as the team went through spring practice and saw Davis lose his hair while undergoing cancer treatments, it began to sink in just what was happening and what kind of leadership Davis was providing during such a difficult time in his personal life.
"His demeanor never changed," Dailey said. "He was still very energetic. The only difference was he didn't have any hair, but he always had a ballcap on so it really didn't make any difference.
"He always starts practice with a theme, and practice is always high tempo. It never changed from the day he got here until today. It hasn't changed yet. He showed us where his priorities are. He cares about the football team a great deal. A lot of guys in his condition wouldn't be around the football program.
"He took himself out of that," Dailey said. "He didn't have that mentality of feeling sorry for himself. 'It's about the team; it's not about me.' It encourages us. Regardless of what the situation is, he showed us he is coming in here to try to get this thing turned around. That motivates us, and he sets the example. If you want to know the tempo, watch Coach Davis every day."
Davis' hair is returning, and he appears to have gained some of the weight he lost. He looks much more like the man who took the job back in November of 2006 than the cancer patient who lost his hair and had grown thin by early summer.
His enthusiasm never waned.
"He gives a great effort every day, and we have to follow that," Dailey said.
Now Davis has a new challenge as summer camp draws near. He has an extraordinarily young team. Of the 84 players on the roster, Davis said 51 have never played in a college football game. This will include whoever starts at quarterback, running back, possibly a couple of spots along the offensive line and several places on the defense.
Davis said he prefers to see this from the positive side. Most of the players will return for the next couple of years so they will be able to build on what the coaching staff teaches.
"I always believed in playing players early," Davis said. "We look at it as how much will this player actually get a chance to play. If we are going to have 1,200 snaps on offense during the course of the season, and you have a freshman who could play 250 to 400 plays, think about how much better prepared he is going to be the following year.
"With only 10 seniors, you knew it was going to be a young football team. And in some respects that is good. The lessons we are going to learn and a lot of things you would like to do as an incoming coaching staff, the players are going to get to use that for two or three years as opposed to having 20, 23 seniors and six months later all the hard work is out the door. I'm actually OK with the fact that it is a young team."
One thing is for sure, Dailey said, Davis is not going to leave anything to chance.
"He is so detailed," Dailey said. "He has this very professional aura about him wherever he goes. He takes care of the team really well. He maps out everyone's responsibilities. There is no murkiness. Everything is real clear on what our job descriptions are and what our expectations are. Everyone understands what they are supposed to do."