The Life and Legacy of Al Davis Part II: College Football

Hikaru Kudo

Any Raiders fan will tell you that Al Davis was quintessential in the development of the Raiders into the franchise it is today.

Last time, we briefly looked back at Davis’s early days in his life. Today, we look at his college football days.

Al and College Football

Davis has had a unique relationship with college football. For starters, he never played football in college. He never tried out for the football team at Syracuse but failed miserably trying to get on both the baseball and basketball team.

His college coaching career began after he graduated from Syracuse with a degree in English. In 1950, he had a brief two-year stint with Adelphi College as a line coach before being conscripted into the Army for the Korean War.

Fortunately for Davis, he never got deployed. He instead became the head coach of the U.S. Army football team.

With the Army at Fort Belvoir, Va., he began making scouting packets on each of the players as they got ready to go pro. As Davis would soon find out, he was pretty talented at creating these packets. So good that future Hall-of-Fame head coach Weeb Ewbank noticed him and recruited him as a freelance scout for the Baltimore Colts.

Despite reasonably unknown to the general public, Davis made his NFL debut as a scout at age 24. Six years later, he was hired by American Football League’s Los Angeles Chargers, but no longer as a scout. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

After a brief stint with the Colts, in 1955, he returned to college football, this time for The Citadel, as a line coach and chief recruiter.

In 1957, he moved to the University of Southern California as its new line coach. He remained there until the end of the 1959 season.

So far, I’ve listed all of Davis’s employers and his positions. If we sum it all up, in college football, Davis worked for four universities, serving primarily as a line coach.

Davis typically stayed at a school for two to three years and then moved on. There’s a reason why he did that.

He was gaining experience.

And by experience, he wasn’t just changing leagues or colleagues or even players.

He was changing the entire atmosphere.

He was learning from others around him, whether it be his head coach or his players. He was observing how each program ran their team.

He was studying.

Remember the story about when Davis was at Syracuse and got booted out of practice because then-head coach Ben Schwartzwalder thought Davis was spying on his team?

Yeah, that never stopped for Davis. He was still the same kid learning different types of strategies on the sideline.

All of his knowledge will soon become useful when he becomes the head coach and general manager of the Raiders.

But we’re still a couple of years away. First, Davis needs to make a quick pit stop in L.A.

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