Known as "Mr. Outside," Glenn Davis (born 1925) played on exceptional Army football teams in the 1940s. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1946.
Glenn Woodward Davis was born December 25, 1925, in Claremont, California (some sources say December 26, 1924, in Burbank, California), with a fraternal twin brother, Ralph. They were the sons of Ralph Davis, a bank manager who also owned citrus trees, and his wife Irma. Davis and his family, including an older sister Mary, spent most of their formative years in LaVerne, California.
By the time he reached high school, Davis was a celebrated athlete. Some observers believed he was one of the finest athletes produced in Southern California. While attending Bonita High School, Davis played in four sports, (football, baseball, basketball and track), and won 13 (some sources say 16) letters over his high school career. For his athletic prowess, Davis won numerous honors. In 1942, the year he led Bonita to a Southern California high school scoring record of 236 points, he was named the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Football Player of the Year. Davis was also honored for his efforts in baseball at center field, winning All-CIF recognition. The following year, Davis won the Knute Rockne Trophy for being the best track star in Southern California.
Entered Military Academy
After graduating from Bonita High School in 1943, Davis attracted much attention from colleges because of his athletic abilities. One school that was very interested was the United States Military Academy. Davis agreed to enter only if his twin brother would be admitted as well. Davis's primary sport was football, and he proved his worth during his plebe (first) year. Playing fullback, he gained 1028 yards rushing in 144 carries. Army finished the season with a record of seven wins, two losses, and one tie, and was ranked seventh in the nation in total offense.
Though Davis was ready for college athletics, he was not prepared for the academic rigors of West Point and the time constraints created by the demands of athletics. He had to be tutored throughout the football season, especially in his weakest subject, mathematics. After his first term, he was expelled for failing math. Davis returned to California and attended an intensive four-month math course at a prep school, Webb School for Boys. Because he successfully completed the course, Davis was readmitted to West Point for the 1944-45 school year, but was again a plebe.
Paired with Blanchard in the Backfield
At the beginning of the 1944 football season, Davis switched to halfback from fullback because of the transfer of another man in the backfield, Doc Blanchard. Though the pair started out as second string players, they soon made a name for themselves, "the Touchdown Twins." Davis became known as "Mr. Outside" and Blanchard was "Mr. Inside." Some believe that the pair formed one of the greatest backfield pairings in college football history, in part because their skills complemented each other and their combination of speed and strength helped the Academy dominate their opponents. Dave Newhouse in Heismen: After the Glory wrote "While teammate and friend Doc Blanchard softened up opposing defenses on the inside, the speedy Glenn Davis would make them pay outside. He was poetry in motion. He brought grace and style to an otherwise forceful offensive machine. Glenn Davis ran like the wind and blew away defenses with an elusive agility unmatched in college football."
Davis played on three of the best teams Army ever put together. During the 1944 season, he set NCAA records by averaging 11.5 yards a carry and by scoring 20 touchdowns in nine games. In one of his best games of the season against arch-rival Navy, Davis had a touchdown run of 52 yards and an interception that prevented Navy from scoring a touchdown. Army won the game 23-7. For his efforts, Davis won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Trophy as player of the year. He also finished second in voting for the Heisman trophy, given to the best college player in the country.
The 1945 Army team is often considered one of the best ever. Davis slightly bested his previous record by averaging 11.51 yards per carry, but only scored 18 touchdowns in nine games. He had another spectacular game against Navy, running in two touchdowns for 33 and 49 yards. Army again won, 32-13. Though Davis had a great season, it was Blanchard who won the Heisman, while Davis finished second.
Won Heisman Trophy
Davis's statistics were better in the 1944 and 1945 seasons than in 1946 when he only averaged 5.8 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns in ten games. Yet he played two of the best games of his college career in 1946. In the annual game against Navy, Davis had 265 yards of total offense, including running 40 yards for a touchdown, catching a 30-yard pass, and throwing a pass for 27 yards and a touchdown. Army won the game 21-18. More impressively, Davis basically won the game against the University of Michigan on his own. Blanchard was injured as was quarterback Arnold Tucker. Playing for 60 minutes, Davis rushed for 105 yards, including a 58-yard scoring run. He completed seven of eight passes for 160 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown pass. He caught a 31-yard touchdown pass, intercepted two passes, and made a defensive play at the end of the game that ensured Army's 20-13 victory. Despite having a subpar season on the whole, Davis finally won the Heisman Trophy, receiving 792 votes. He was also honored as the Associated Press's athlete of the year and TSN's player of the year.
At end of his college football career, Davis had gained 6494 yards in 637 carries. He had a total of 59 touchdowns, an NCAA record at the time, and passed for 12 more. He averaged one touchdown for every nine plays. Davis was named an All-American three times, and could have won the Heisman three times as well.
Excelled at Other Sports
Football was not Davis's only sport at West Point. In addition to playing guard on the basketball team, Davis was a star centerfielder on the baseball team. He could have played professional baseball. The many teams that were interested in Davis's services included the Brooklyn Dodgers who offered him a $75,000 contract and significant signing bonus. Davis declined to pursue baseball because after fulfilling his military commitment, he would have been very old for a major league rookie at the time and feared he would not be able to catch up.
Davis was also a track star, though he did not pursue it as seriously as football and baseball. While many believed he could have been an international track star, he did not compete on a consistent basis. Nonetheless, as a sprinter, he once won the 100-yard dash in 9.7 seconds, tying an Army record. He set a West Point record in the 220-yard dash with a time of 20.9 seconds. Davis showed his all-around abilities in the Academy's Master of the Sword test, which involved numerous skills including a 300-yard run, several jumps, rope climb, softball throw, and sit-ups. Davis scored a record 962 1/2 points out of a possible 1000. Though Davis was considered the best complete athlete ever produced by the Academy, when he graduated in 1947, he was ranked 305 out of a class of 310.
Denied Chance to Play Professional Football
After graduating in 1947, Davis joined the Army while Blanchard joined the Army Air Corps. However, he and Blanchard still desired a career in professional football. The pair was offered huge bonuses and salaries by the professional teams. Upon graduation, each man received a standard 60-day furlough. Both Davis and Blanchard asked for an extended furlough to allow them to play, but the request was denied. They also tried to cut a deal that would allow them to play football during the fall and serve in the military during the rest of the year for several seasons. This deal also was turned down, in part because of a political uproar. Many believed the Army had spent too much time, money, and effort training them to allow them to play football.
Appeared in Film
Davis and Blanchard did manage to make money off their illustrious football careers during their first 60-day leave. They appeared in a low-budget film about their lives and football careers entitled Spirit of West Point. They were paid $25,000 each and five percent of the profits for their work. The film did not receive good reviews, but Davis suffered a greater injury during the filming. Running for a touchdown for the cameras, he tore the ligament and damaged cartilage in his right knee and had to undergo surgery.
While Davis served his three years in the Army, he managed to keep his football abilities intact. Though he was criticized, Davis practiced with the Los Angeles Rams and played in an exhibition game during his leave in 1948. Despite these criticisms, the Army also used Davis's abilities for its own benefit. In 1949, he was assigned to West Point to coach the plebe football team's back field.
Played Professional Football
After being discharged from the Army in 1950, Davis finally got his chance to play professional football. He spent two seasons with the Rams, despite the negative effects of his knee injury on his playing ability. He told Newhouse in Heismen: After the Glory, "I was as good a football player as a senior in high school as I was with the Rams." Though he may not have been the same player in his eyes, he still managed to lead his team in rushing during his 1950 rookie season. Davis also still ran fast. He was timed by a University of Southern California track coach carrying a football in full uniform 100 yards in 10 seconds.
During the season, Davis also had 42 catches, seven touchdowns, and passed for two more. The Rams won the NFL championship that season, winning the championship game against the Cleveland Browns. Davis's contribution was an 82-yard pass play score. He also made the Pro Bowl. But Davis's professional career was cut short in 1951 when he re-injured his knee. In his professional career, he had 152 rushing carries for 616 yards, averaging 4.1 yards a carry, and scoring four touchdowns. He also caught 50 passes for 682 yards and five touchdowns, for a 13.6 yards a carry average.
After his football career ended, Davis went to Texas to work in the oil business for several years in the early 1950s. He did try to return to football in 1953 with the Rams, but quit after an exhibition game. In the mid-1950s, Davis was hired by the Los Angeles Times, and by the late 1950s, he was employed there as a special events director. Until he retired in 1987, Davis oversaw the newspaper's charity fundraising events, primarily sporting events, concerts, and banquets. Though out of football, Davis's career was still remembered fondly. He told Ron Fimrite of Sports Illustrated in 1988, "It's amazing, but I still get at least a half dozen fan letters every week…. After all these years, that's really something."
Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: Football, edited by David L. Porter, Greenwood Press, 1987.
Brady, John T., The Heisman: A Symbol of Excellence, Atheneum, 1984.
Hickok, Ralph, The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History, Facts on File, 1992.
Hickok, Ralph, A Who's Who of Sports Champion: Their Stories and Records, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.
Newhouse, Dave, Heismen: After the Glory, The Sporting News Publishing Co., 1985.
Associated Press State and Local Wire, October 4, 1999.
New York Times, October 1, 1995.
The Record, September 29, 1995.
Sports Illustrated, November 21, 1988. □