Honoring Anthony Davis

Like before every ND game, it is a requirement to pay homage to the legendary Anthony Davis.

In 1972 an ex-high school quarterback moved up from 3rd team to first string by mid-season on the greatest team ever assembled in college football history. He had already made history by breaking a 0-0 tie at Oregon with back to back 50 yard touchdown runs. U.S.C. was undefeated and un-approached going into its final at the Coliseum versus Ara Parseghian and the fighting Irish. Davis returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and in the 2nd half U.S.C. had its typical overpowering lead. But the Irish came marching back into the 4th quarter scoring a touchdown bringing them within 2 points and filling them with momentum. All eyes were on the kick returner Anthony Davis hoping he could reverse the tide of events. And he did, taking the 2nd kickoff that day to the house. And thus was born nationwide the legend of Anthony Davis—AD– who score 6 touchdown’s that day.

The next year Notre Dame got its win in South Bend holding Davis to a single score. That year I wrote a cover story on him for Los Angeles Magazine called, “Anthony Davis, Superstar, are you what they say you are?”

Then came 1974.

U.S.C. has fought its way back from an opening loss and a later tie to a shot at the national championship. Its faced in the final at the Coliseum, once again, Notre Dame which brought along the number one rated defense in the nation. That defense dominated in the first half and so frustrated John McKay that he went for it on forth in one at his own 25 and failed. It was 24 to 0 Irish who could seem to do no wrong. Never was the Coliseum crowd so quiet. Even a last minute first-half drive with Davis scoring on the swing pass did not give much encouragement.

At half time legendary coach Ara Parseghian, remembering what Davis had done in 1972, instructed his kicker to kick the opening 2nd half kickoff to Davis and then told his team to “shove the football down his throat.”

In the U.S.C. locker room Saint John McKay told his players not to despair. Notre Dame, he said, would foolishly kick the ball off to Davis and Anthony was going to do it again. Davis needed one more kickoff return for a touchdown to set the career NCCA record. After that McKay promised, the team would score and score again and keep on scoring.

Outside in the Coliseum the buzz went from seat to seat. The only way, the fans agreed, that U.S.C. gets into this game against Notre Dame’s great defense was if Davis does it once more. It was the only subject of conversation. I told my brother that Davis had to return the kickoff for a touchdown and then Notre Dame and to fumble the next kick off.

It was the most anticipated kickoff in the history of college football. The crowd stood, the ball was kicked in the air and Davis gathered it at about the 4 yard line. The wedge in front of him included Ricky Bell, Lofa’s Dad and Dave Farmer. The 1980s magic words were for the US hockey team “do you believe in miracles?” That day that granddaddy of all football announcers Keith Jackson said, “He’s long gone at the 40…”
Anthony Davis had done it before a stunned but delirious sold out crowd. He had reached immortality.

ND did not fumble the next kickoff but the return runner was cut in half by David Lewis’s emotional special team hit on the Irish own 7 yard line. The crowd went crazy. Adrenalin was pumping. And I turned to my brother with a smile and said, “That’s close enough.” From that point USC’s defense overwhelmed the Irish, special teams came alive, every pass Pat Haden threw J.K. McKay caught and seemingly every other AD run ended in a score. Charles Phillips interception-touchdown run made it 49 points in a little over 15 second half minutes against the nation’s top rated defense. I became so hoarse from cheering my voice did not return for 3 weeks.

Parseghian then announced his retirement from coaching and never returned. But in his last game…the bowl game…the Irish gave him a going away upset win over No.1 Alabama. That win ironically, made the 74 Trojans national champs.

In his career as a Trojan Davis returned 37 kickoffs for 1,299 yards, a then NCAA record 35.1 yard average. His six career kickoff returns for touchdowns were also an NCAA record as well as his kickoff return average of 42.5 yards in 1974, which was the highest kickoff return average for any single season leader ever. He was also the first Pacific-8 Conference player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons – 1,191 in 1972; 1,112 in 1973 and 1,469 in 1974. In all he carried the ball 784 times for 3,772 yards and 44 touchdowns. In his senior year (1974) he was a unanimous Consensus All-American selection. Davis was also a two time (1973-1974) first team All Pac-8 Conference selection. He was also the third multiple recipient of the W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. Davis won the Voit trophy in 1972 and 1974.

Don’t believe the Heisman stuff. He was better than Archie Griffin. For career he rates with Charlie White for best Trojan RB behind OJ.

He played in the World Football League with Pat Haden, the Canadian Football League, the National Football League, and the USFL. He led the WFL in rushing with 1,200 yards on 239 carries and 16 touchdowns at the time of its demise. He also caught 40 passes for 381 yards and one TD, while on kickoff returns he ran back 9 for 235 yards and one TD. In all, he scored 18 TDs in the WFL for 133 points. His 16 touchdowns for rushing over 12 games is a WFL record. He also threw the ball and completed 4 of 11 attempts for 102 yards and one TD.

He was an outfielder on USC’s 1973 and 1974 College World Series champion baseball teams. Playing with wood bats at the time, Davis hit .273 with 6 home runs, 45 RBIs and 13 stolen bases for the Trojan’s 1974 National Championship Baseball team. The Minnesota Twins selected him in the fourth round of the 1975 January amateur entry draft (83rd overall pick).
During his Trojan career, Davis won four National Championships – two in each sport. As a two-sport standout, Davis holds the distinction of being the only player in school history to start for a National Champion Football team (1972 and 74) and a National Champion Baseball team (1974).

The Notre Dame vs. USC game on November 27, 2004 was titled the “Anthony Davis Day,” in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the record-breaking game.
He also was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine three times, including one foldout.

Davis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on December 6, 2005 in New York City. He was enshrined on August 12, 2006 in South Bend, Indiana.

Following a brief NFL career, Davis became a successful real estate developer and continues to serve as a motivational speaker for youth in Irvine, California where he currently resides. He also gained a lot of weight at one time.

But these were not the biggest stories to me of l974.   The Seniors on the USC football team and games they played held that honor in my eyes.  The Seniors became the first players in USC modern history to win two national championships.  1974 was done the hard way, losing an opener to Arkansas and latter being tied.  But USC built momentum and then played back to back two of the greatest games in USC history.  In the season final l974 against Norte Dame USC was down 24-6 at halftime.  And the Irish had the No.1 defense in the country.   At halftime I told my brother the only way USC wins is if Anthony Davis returns 2nd half kickoff for Touchdown (he had returned two against Irish 2 years earlier) and the Irish fumble the ensuing kickoff.  As the world then knew and still does,  Anthony Davis in the Coliseum’s most memorial moment did return the kick-off all-the-way.  ND did not fumble the next kickoff but the runner was cut in half by Davis Lewis’s emotional special team hit on the 7 yard line.  The crowd went crazy.  Adrenalin was pumping.  And I turned to my brother with a smile and said, “that’s close enough.”  From that point USC’s defense, overwhelmed the Irish, special teams came alive, and every pass Pat Haden threw J.K. McKay caught and seemingly every other AD run ended in a score.  Charles Phillips interception-touchdown run made it 49 points in a little over 15 second half minutes against the nation’s top rated defense.  I became so hoarse from cheering my voice did not return for 3 weeks.