CLEMSON -- Always one to embrace the spotlight, charismatic Clemson running back James Davis had another theatrical episode up his sleeve.
In an 11th-hour change of heart, Davis reversed field and backed out of the NFL Draft late Friday afternoon, a decision that legitimately stunned Tigers coaches and teammates alike.
Although last Tuesday marked the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, there was a subsequent 72-hour window (until midnight Friday) during which players could withdraw.
Davis, a junior from Atlanta, said he had not entertained returning until a three-hour conversation with his mother, Theresa, Thursday night weighed heavily as he went to bed.
For months, Davis made it clear Theresa wanted him to play his senior season for a variety of reasons.
He said he awoke at 3 a.m. Friday and felt tugged to reverse his decision.
"I got back up later and thought I'd had a dream or something," Davis said. "But I just kept thinking I needed to go back to school."
Since Monday, Davis has been training with nearly a dozen other prospective NFL draftees at Athletes' Performance Institute in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
It is common for NFL agents to pay for their rookie clients to work out at such facilities. By receiving any such benefit, an athlete would forfeit his eligibility as an NCAA amateur athlete.
Davis, however, said his accommodations were paid for by one of his uncles, Walden Davis.
"I'm sure we'll have to explain that to somebody, too," Davis said. "But he's pretty good with his money, and him doing that helped me out a lot."
Clemson signed off on Davis' return, although Davis is to meet with compliance officials Tuesday following the Martin Luther King Day holiday.
The deadline for enrolling in spring semester classes is Wednesday.
"I think he just missed Clemson," close friend and running back cohort C.J. Spiller said in a school-issued statement.
Said coach Tommy Bowden in the statement: "I know it was a difficult decision for him, and we continued to communicate. In the final analysis, he realizes this is the best decision for him and his family."
Bowden went on to predict Davis' draft stock would be "much higher" after another year at Clemson.
While that remains to be seen, it would be hard to argue Davis did not minimize a gamble.
Eight other high-profile juniors declared early entry, creating a potentially saturated market for running backs in the draft's opening rounds.
On the other hand, Ohio State sophomore Chris Wells and Georgia redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno might be the only draft-eligible returnees with more acclaim for the 2008 draft.
"I think I will do better draft-wise coming back, but that really didn't have anything to do with it," Davis said. "I really wasn't worried about the other running backs coming out."
Returning nearly ensures Davis will have a crack at all of Clemson's major rushing records should he make it through the 2008 season.
Davis needs 837 yards to surpass Raymond Priester (3,966) for career total yardage, and Davis' 38 total touchdowns is 12 shy of matching Travis Zachery's mark.
"Coach Bowden didn't want me to leave, but I'm just glad he welcomed me back with open arms," Davis said.