NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Auburn’s Ricardo Louis and Chris Davis weren’t household names nationally when November started.
Then came the Immaculate Deflection and the Kick Six, and that changed in a flash, along with the Tigers’ season.
Those two defining plays helped launch No. 2 Auburn (12-1) into Monday night’s national championship game against No. 1 Florida State (13-0) and catapulted the two players into the limelight.
Louis started it when he collected a deflected Hail Mary pass from Nick Marshall for a 73-yard touchdown on fourth and 18 with 25 seconds left to give Auburn a win against Georgia. It was perhaps the play of the season. For a couple of weeks.
Then Davis returned a missed field goal all the way from the back of the end zone on the final play to beat then-No. 1 Alabama.
“My life has changed a lot since the Iron Bowl,” said Davis, a starting cornerback and one of the nation’s top return men. “Every time I turn on the TV, ESPN, I’m seeing that play. But I’m trying to put that moment behind me.
“We’ve got a bigger task at hand come Monday. We’re playing for the national championship, and we’re trying to bring it back to the state of Alabama.”
Davis and Louis have tried to balance savoring the attention and keeping it in perspective leading up to the title game. Over and over, they’ve been asked about the famous plays.
“Every time I meet somebody new,” Louis said, “they always tell me their reaction to that play.”
Davis, a senior, played a huge role in getting the Tigers to this point even beyond the Iron Bowl return. He’s Auburn’s leading tackler and ranks second nationally in punt return average, including an 85-yard touchdown against Tennessee.
Against Alabama, he initially lined up on the wing but after a time out, coaches put him deep in the end zone for Adam Griffith’s 57-yard attempt. The rest is historic.
“When I ran in the end zone, I was saying to myself, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable,’ ” Davis said. “As a player you always dream of getting in that situation and just embracing the moment.”
Davis got a standing ovation in class two days later. The two were featured together on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “The Gifts That Kept on Giving.”
Life hasn’t always been as easy for Davis as that run-back against Alabama’s unit of beefy but slower blockers.
He has missed multiple games each of the last three years because of injuries, including two this season. His father died when he was young.
The father of a 3-year-old son, Chris III, Davis has been invited to the Senior Bowl. And he can do the things he missed out on with his own dad, like playing catch.
“I try to take advantage of the opportunities that I’ve got him around,” said Davis, who added a Jr. on the back of his jersey this season to honor his late father.
While Davis’s Auburn career is winding down, the Tigers are hoping Louis is just getting started. His college choice, coincidentally, came down to Florida State and Auburn.
The sophomore from Miami has 297 yards receiving and 204 rushing.
He was already having his best game against Georgia before the Immaculate Deflection.
“I guess that’s like one of the big moments in his life, but it’s not the end of his story here,” said Louis’s father, Roland. “I’m expecting to see a lot more of that in college.”
Roland Louis sends his son Bible verses daily. Before the Georgia game, he talked to him at the team hotel about remaining humble. The verse that day was Philippians 1:6, which says “… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The middle school teacher said his son has handled the hoopla well.
“The catch, yeah, people called it a miracle, and that’s what we all call it,” Roland Louis said. “But he’s just the person he is. He’s always poised and always calm. Most people would probably go crazy with that, but he just remained calm.”
Louis even gave the right glove he wore on the play to a kid as he walked off the field.
“I felt bad about just walking by,” he said, “so I gave him one of the gloves.”
The left one, though, remains safely at home.