Army Heisman Winner Glenn Davis Dies at 80

Heisman winner Davis dies at 80 (ESPN-AP)

Photo: Glenn Davis, right, and Glenn Davis, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1946 and helped lead Army to three national championships, died Wednesday. He was 80. Davis died of complications from prostate cancer at his home in La Quinta, located about 110 miles east of Los Angeles, said his son, Ralph Davis. Glenn Davis will be buried at West Point, near his former coach, Col. Earl “Red” Blaik, according to his son.

Davis starred as a halfback for Army when it won national titles in 1944 and 1945. The Cadets and Notre Dame played to a scoreless tie in 1946, and split the national championship. Davis teamed with fullback Felix “Doc” Blanchard as one of the most heralded backfields in the history of college football. He was known as “Mr. Outside” to Blanchard’s “Mr. Inside.” Davis scored 59 touchdowns and gained 4,129 yards in rushing and receiving in his college career. He still holds NCAA records for most yards gained per play in one season, averaging 11.5 yards per carry in 1945; 8.3 career yards per carry; and he and Blanchard share the record for most touchdowns (97) and points (585) scored by teammates in a career. In 1946, Davis won the Heisman and was voted male athlete of the year by The Associated Press. “He was one of the best,” said former Army guard Joe Steffy, who played with Davis in 1945 and 1946. “He left an impression. The first time I met him, I was in awe. What he meant to the military academy and the game of college football needs no explanation.”

In 1944, after a famous season-ending win over Navy, Gen. Douglas MacArthur even took time out from his war duties to send this wire: “The greatest of all Army teams … We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success. MacArthur.”

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Photo: Time Magazine Cover with Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard After serving his military obligation, Davis joined the Los Angeles Rams, playing on the team that won the 1951 NFL championship before a knee injury cut his career short in 1952.

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Davis and Blanchard were national sports heroes, appearing on the cover of Time magazine in November 1945. Despite the accolades, Davis over the years showed a certain modesty about his prowess. “I wasn’t the kind of guy who liked to pick the newspaper up to find out how I was doing. I just did my thing the best I could,” Davis told the AP in 1995. “We played offense and defense and it wasn’t an individual accomplishment. We all won or lost together,” he said in 1999. Davis, who also lettered in baseball, track and basketball, visited West Point for the final time in October to be inducted into Army’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Davis and men like him were the true embodiment of the term “scholar-athlete.” They still exist, in abundance, but not so much in the big money sports at the major schools. And the days when a player from a Service Academy could win the Heisman appear long over. A pretty fair quarterback from the Naval Academy by the name of Roger Staubach was the last, in 1963.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.