Davis, Glenn Woodward ("Junior")

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DAVIS, Glenn Woodward ("Junior")

(b. 26 December 1924 in Claremont, California), collegiate and pro halfback who was dubbed "Mr. Outside" and is remembered for his dazzling speed on the field.

Little about Davis's life was ordinary. Born to Ralph and Irna Davis, he arrived just a few minutes after his twin brother and on their older sister's third birthday. Davis and his brother were inseparable. At Bonita High School in La Verne, California, the two boys played many sports together, including football, baseball, basketball, and track, and Davis won sixteen letters before graduating. With his brother as quarterback, Davis, the freshman fullback, ran for 1,028 yards in 144 attempts. In his senior year, he scored 236 points, a record in the Southern California Prep league. He was named the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Football Player of the Year, All-CIF center field in baseball in 1942, and won the Knute Rockne Track Trophy in 1943. Professional baseball teams courted him for his throwing ability; basketball coaches said he was a great shooter; and track experts said that he could be an Olympic sprinter. The Los Angeles Times called him the best athlete ever developed in Southern California.

In 1943 the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, offered Davis an appointment. He refused to accept unless his brother was also admitted. The two soon found themselves at the prestigious academy. As a plebe the 170-pound Davis won varsity letters in three different sports, and he could have done the same in track had he been interested.

Although Davis's athletic prowess astonished everyone, his academic performance left much to be desired. After being expelled from West Point in December of 1943, he spent six months studying math and won reappointment. His football coach, Earl "Red" Blaik, moved Davis to half-back in 1944, and Davis, along with fullback Felix "Doc" Blanchard, became national figures. Together they were known as the "Touchdown Twins," and "Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside." Blanchard busted up the middle between the tackles, while Davis had the speed and breakaway skills to run to the outside. Some sports critics have suggested they were the best backfield in the history of college football. Defenses who tried to bottle up Blanchard in the middle were torched by Davis running to the outside; if they managed to stop Davis, Blanchard plowed up the middle. Davis also had power and rarely ran out of bounds as he swept around ends. Instead, he knifed between defenders or hit them head on in the open field.

Blanchard and Davis became part of the best Army team ever, winning every game in three seasons from 1944 to 1946 except one: a 0–0 tie game against Notre Dame in 1946. In his first year Davis set various records, scoring twenty touchdowns and averaging 11.1 yards per carry. The 1944 game against Navy stands as Davis's greatest football memory. "We were on the threshold of the first unbeaten Army season since 1916," said Davis. "Navy was the only team standing in the way of our winning the intercollegiate football championship … and what an obstacle!" Army did win, 23–7, with Davis scoring his twentieth touchdown of the season and becoming the leading scorer in the country.

The next year Army defeated Notre Dame 48–0 and in the 1945 season finale beat Navy 32–13, with Blanchard and Davis scoring all five of Army's touchdowns. Blanchard received the Heisman Trophy that year; Davis came in second in the voting. Grantland Rice wrote in the New York Sun that "in a modern way Scylla and Charybdis are better known as Doc Blanchard and Davis of the Army team. If one doesn't wreck you, the other probably will." Some observers, however, suggested that since many good football players were serving overseas during the World War II years, the lack of top football talent made Davis look better than he really was. Nevertheless, 1946—a year many of those football players returned to the game—proved one of Davis's best years. He had a forty-yard touchdown run, threw a twenty-seven-yard touchdown pass, and had 265 yards of total offense in one game (against Navy). He won the Heisman Trophy that year, as well as the Maxwell Trophy and the Walter Camp Trophy, and was voted the 1946 Associated Press Athlete of the Year. That year Davis also broke the all-time military physical fitness efficiency test. The 1,000-point test measures overall agility, strength, and endurance, with test-takers at the time averaging in the mid-500s. Davis scored an astonishing 926.5 points. He was voted All-American three times and ended his college football career with 59 touchdowns, 2,957 yards rushing, and 4,129 total yards. Davis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1961.

After Davis's graduation the Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a $75,000 contract to play baseball, but he chose instead to serve his military obligation in Korea. Upon his return to the game in 1950 he joined the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL), helping them get to the title game against Cleveland. On the Rams' first play from scrimmage, Davis caught an eighty-two-yard touchdown pass from Bob Waterfield. Although the Rams went on to lose the game, Davis had a notable rookie season. Unfortunately, the next year was not as productive. Though Davis had avoided any serious injuries from playing sports, he had torn a knee ligament while filming the movie The Spirit of West Point (1947). The injury reoccurred in 1951, and he did not see much playing time during that season, which was the season when the Rams won the NFL title. Davis retired from football at the end of the year and married Harriet Lancaster. He took a position with the Los Angeles Times special events department. In 1987 the Glenn Davis Award for Outstanding Southern California Prep School Football Player was established, honoring the Southern California athlete. After retiring, Davis moved to LaQuinta, California, and married Yvonne Ameche, the widow of Baltimore Colts fullback Alan Ameche, on 12 July 1996. Davis was named to the College Football All-Century team in January 2000.

Davis was one of the finest athletes to play college football. Although he had a short tenure in the NFL, his spectacular performance at West Point makes him one of the greatest running backs in football history.

Murray Goodman and Leonard Lewin, My Greatest Day in Football (1948), records Davis's recollections of the 1944 game that pitted Army against Navy in the intercollegiate championship game. John McCallum and W. W. Heffelfinger, This Was Football (1954), recalls Davis's days at West Point, along with a number of anecdotes from coaches and teammates. Joe Horrigan and Bob Carroll, Football Greats (1998), details Davis's major accomplishments on the field. Grantland Rice, Los Angeles Times (8 Nov. 1945), contains a description of Davis's running abilities and athleticism during his 1945 season at Army.

Markus H. McDowell

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