- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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There he was, a Clemson offensive lineman strolling down the streets of Kyoto, Japan, all 6-foot-5 of him.
Before you get images of a giant surrounded by little people, Kalon Davis stops you like the blocker he is.
"At this point, I'm the biggest guy here, too," Davis chuckled during a phone interview after he returned to South Carolina.
So true. When was the last time you bumped into a beefy offensive lineman shopping for produce at the convenience store? Davis did get his fair share of stares -- and even a few people who stopped and asked for a cell phone picture -- but none of that felt out of the ordinary for a guy already used to being a big man on campus.
In fact, not much felt out of the ordinary while he studied abroad for two months in Japan -- a requirement for his modern languages major. Not speaking only Japanese. Not taking buses and trains only. Not commuting an hour and a half to do a work out.
While his teammates lifted back home, Davis lifted with a Japanese college football team and also played club soccer, while also taking classes in Japanese language and Japanese culture.
"The environment was different, but the day-to-day living wasn’t much different for me because I was still a student-athlete," Davis said.
Davis always has been fascinated with Japanese culture. He used to sit for hours watching his brother and sister play video games, either on Nintendo or Atari. Then when he got older, he started to play, too. When he arrived at Clemson, he began to study computer science so he could learn how to animate for video games. He also had a minor in Japanese.
But as his interest in Japanese grew, he switched majors. Davis started learning Japanese his sophomore year, and is now proficient. During his time in Kyoto, he stayed with a host family in a duplex. His bedroom was sparse -- a thin futon mattress on the floor surrounded by floor mats. He would leave the house at about 10 or 11 every morning, go to class at the local arts college, then take a bus and train up an hour and a half to Ritsumeikan University to work out with the football team there. Most nights, he did not get back until 10 or later.
Being immersed in the culture was a big thrill, and so was helping out the football team. He was given the coveted No. 52 jersey, an honored number. Davis helped teach the team about fundamentals and certain plays run in America. He learned certain plays specific to Japanese football. Ritsumeikan does not run a hurry-up. Instead, it is a power-heavy offensive team. So Davis spent time breaking down game tape of Stanford's offensive line against Notre Dame. He also watched most of Clemson's games from last season with the team.
"With the football team, there were a couple people who spoke really good English but I wanted to practice my Japanese with them and if I ever had to talk to the whole offensive line or offense, in a team meeting or something, I always had to speak Japanese," he said.
Spending two months away from the football program might give a coach a major bout of angina. But because Davis was able to work out every day and keep up with football, he returned to Clemson in the best shape of his life.
He also returned to three standard questions from teammates?
How was Japan?
How was the football team?
Did you bring me anything back?
Davis tried shopping for Ritsumeikan T-shirts, but could not find any in his size. He bought one, and it barely fits.
OK, so maybe Davis is a little bit bigger than the average person walking down the Kyoto streets.
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