It is homecoming weekend at west point. The leaves are turning, and though the October days have been unseasonably mild and sunny along the Hudson, there is at dusk the suggestion of an autumn chill. It is almost nightfall as the little van driven by U.S. Military Academy athletic director Carl Ullrich pulls up alongside the football practice field. Joe Steffy, a squarely built man who was an All-America guard on the great Army teams of the '40s, is there to meet Ullrich and his passengers, with a smile on his rubicund face as wide as the river.
This is an article from the Nov. 21, 1988 issue
Steffy, who has recently retired, lives just up the road from West Point, in Newburgh, N.Y. He hasn't missed an Army football home game in 35 years. The two old friends Steffy has driven over to meet, who are now disengaging themselves from the van with theatrically exaggerated difficulty, live far away—one in California near Palm Springs, the other in San Antonio. And though he visits both of them from time to time, Steffy is happy to have them back on his own turf again. Of course, there was a time, so many years ago, when it was their turf, too. Theirs for sure.
"Doc! Glenn!" Steffy bellows, jogging over to the three-foot-high fence that borders the practice field. The visitors are equally joyous, the smaller of the two actually vaulting the fence—no mean feat for a 63-year-old man recently recovered from prostate surgery. The larger man, heavier by many pounds than in his robust playing days, takes the longer way around, but he, too, hurries over to embrace his old teammate. "How's it goin', you old duffer!" he says. The Army team is still practicing, so the older men confine their friendly scuffling and noisy reminiscences to the edge of the field. An errant punt bounces within a few feet of them.
"They can sure as hell kick that ball these days," says Steffy.
"Aw, Joe," says Doc, "they just blow the ball up tighter."
"But they are big" says Glenn. "We'd look like termites out there."
Jim Young, the Army coach, soon joins the group. Young is 53, but he addresses the two visitors as if he were a mere schoolboy in the presence of idols, which, certainly to his way of thinking, he is. "Could you two possibly say a few words to the team?" the coach inquires. "It would be important to them if you could. They've all seen you plenty of times. We show the highlight films from '45 and '46 before our games."
Doc and Glenn cheerfully agree, following Young, who whistles his team to assembly in the middle of the field. It is growing dark, and the damp grass has a velvet sheen. The Hudson River beyond looks like a long black ribbon. There is the smell of sweat in the evening air. The players gather in a semicircle around their coach and his two guests.
"Men," Young begins, "I want you to meet the two greatest football players Army ever had, the two best backs ever to play on the same college football team—Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard." Applause and cheers. The years now are peeling away from the returning heroes, and, embarrassed by this rush of sentiment, they hastily wish these new Black Knights of the Hudson good luck and Godspeed.
As the two greatest football players Army ever had walk away from this scene so hauntingly familiar to them, Blanchard turns to Davis and says in a large gruff voice, "Glenn, what I wanted to tell those boys was that we wore high-top shoes and long-sleeved shirts with elbow pads and we had no face masks, and on the bus down to New York, we'd sing Barbry Allen and John Henry."
"Doc, I notice you're still smoking."
"Aw, Glenn, I've lived so long that everything from now on is just a bonus."
Blanchard and Davis. They are as different as two men can be, and yet it is almost impossible for those who remember them to say one name without the other. They are the Damon and Pythias, the Chang and Eng, the MacNeil and Lehrer of football. Indeed, though they rarely see each other anymore and live many miles apart, though they have followed entirely separate paths since they left West Point more than 41 years ago and were never really that close—they were in different battalions at the Academy—Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis are destined to march in lockstep through time, inseparably bound by mutually extraordinary deeds. They will forever be what George Trevor of the old New York Sun called them long ago in a moment of matchless inspiration, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.
They were running backs who perfectly complemented each other, the one, Blanchard, a battering ram up the middle; the other, Davis, a wraith around end. Together they formed the most devastating backfield combination since the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame 20 years earlier. Individually, they rank among the finest backs ever to play college football. Their coach, Colonel Earl (Red) Blaik, now 91 and living in Colorado Springs, says, "There is no comparing them with anyone else. They were the best."
Ed McKeever, the Notre Dame coach in 1944, said on first watching Blanchard, "I've just seen Superman in the flesh. He wears number 35 and goes by the name of Blanchard." Davis was similarly extolled. "He's better than Grange," said Steve Owen, coach of the NFL New York Giants during the Blanchard-Davis years. "He's faster and he cuts better."
Bill Yeoman, the former University of Houston coach and a Blanchard-Davis teammate, told the Los Angeles Times only five years ago, "There are words to describe how good an athlete Doc Blanchard was. But there aren't words to describe how good Glenn Davis was."
Blanchard and Davis were consensus All-Americas in 1944, '45 and '46, the only three-time All-America backfield teammates. They won the Heisman Trophy in successive years, Blanchard in '45, Davis in '46—again the only members of the same backfield to achieve that distinction. In 1945 alone, they scored 37 touchdowns—19 by Blanchard, 18 by Davis—and since Army beat opponents by an average score that year of 45.8-5.1, they played barely half the time; Davis averaged only nine carries a game and Blanchard slightly more than 11.
Their skills were hardly defined by their sobriquets. Mr. Inside had the speed to run outside, and he frequently did. As Yeoman has observed, "Davis was so fast he made the rest of us look slow, so people forget how fast Doc was." Indeed, Blanchard ran 100 yards in under 10 seconds. He was also a superb pass receiver who, though Army seldom threw, caught seven touchdown passes (five from Davis) in his three-year career. Blanchard also punted, kicked off and occasionally kicked extra points. On defense (Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside were two-way players), he was a punishing tackier as a linebacker. He still holds the Academy three-year record for yards returned on intercepted passes (189), and he ran back two interceptions for touchdowns.
Blanchard also returned two punts for touchdowns. The year he won his Heisman, he averaged 7.1 yards on a mere 101 carries. He also won the Maxwell Trophy, and he became the first football player to win the Sullivan Award as the nation's finest amateur athlete. Blanchard is the only man ever to win the Heisman and the Sullivan. He dabbled in track and field his senior year and, with no previous experience in the event, was putting the shot close to 54 feet at a time when the world record was not yet 60 feet.
Blanchard was a superior athlete. Davis was an amazing one. In his four years at West Point, Davis won 10 letters: four in football, three in baseball, two in track and one in basketball. In his time, cadets were required to take a physical-fitness test that included such events as the rope climb, the 300-yard run the bar vault, the vertical jump, the standing long jump and the softball throw, as well as chin-ups and push-ups. A perfect score was 1,000 points. Before Davis the record score was 901½ points and the average for all cadets, not quite 550. Davis scored an unheard-of 962½.
His career batting average on the Army baseball team was .403 for 51 games, and he stole 64 bases in 65 attempts, including second, third and home in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at West Point. Branch Rickey, the Dodgers' president at the time, made him a standing offer of $75,000 to sign, which was a king's ransom in the '40s.
Davis may well have been the fastest football player ever to play the game up to his time. The qualifier is necessary because no one could ever be certain just how fast he was; like Blanchard, he considered track a mere diversion. But in 1947 Davis did beat Barney Ewell, the silver medalist at 100 meters in the 1948 Olympic Games, in a 6.1 60-yard dash at a meet in Madison Square Garden. But Davis's most famous track exploit came after a baseball game against Navy at West Point in 1947. The ball game, which started in the morning, was followed that afternoon by the annual Army-Navy track meet. Davis played the full nine innings in center-field, getting, as he recalls, "a couple of hits." Then, because Army was short of sprinters, he was rushed by car from the diamond to the track, where he changed to shorts and was handed a pair of borrowed track shoes. Davis had not run in an outdoor meet that year, nor had he practiced a single day on the track.
"They held up the dashes for him," says Bobby Folsom, a former football teammate who, from 1976 to '81, was the mayor of Dallas. "I can remember Glenn jogging over to the start of the 100 carrying those borrowed shoes. Well, we all know what happened next."
Davis was called for one false start in the 100-yard dash, and he was so cautious on the next start that he was all but left in the blocks. But he easily caught up with the field and won in 9.7, an excellent time for any sprinter in 1947, an astonishing time for one who hadn't trained and who had just finished playing nine innings of baseball. Then, in the 220, he merely established a meet and an Academy record of 20.9.
But Davis had more than speed on the football field. He was only 5'9" and 170 pounds, but he ran with unusual power and was one of the shiftiest backs the game has ever known. "He and Doc were both easy to block for," says DeWitt (Tex) Coulter, an All-America tackle on the Blanchard-Davis teams. "You didn't really need to get in a solid lick, because they had this sense of where to go, that great running instinct."
Davis still holds or shares five NCAA rushing and scoring records. His career-average gain of 8.26 yards (2,957 yards in 358 carries) has been the standard for 42 years. He is tied with Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett for career touchdowns, with 59. Davis had 43 rushing TDs, 14 on pass receptions and two on punt returns. He also scored touchdowns in 31 games, a record he shares with Dorsett and Ted Brown of North Carolina State, and he scored two or more touchdowns in 17 games, a record he shares with Dorsett and Steve Owens of Oklahoma. Together, Davis and Blanchard hold the career record for most touchdowns and points scored by two players on the same team—97 and 585, respectively.
Granted, some of those extraordinary numbers were achieved against weak, wartime opponents, but by 1946 the big boys, older, stronger and more experienced from service football, were back. Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside were equal to the occasion. Although Blanchard missed two games with a knee injury, he still rushed for 613 yards and a 5.2 average. Davis averaged 5.8 yards a carry that year, gained 712 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. It was his turn for the Heisman.
The Blanchard-Davis Army teams of '44 through '46 had only a 0-0 tie with Notre Dame on November 9, 1946, at Yankee Stadium to taint an otherwise unblemished 27-0-1 record. They won 25 straight before coming up empty against the Irish. The '44 team set an NCAA record by averaging 56 points a game and holding opponents to only 3.9.
The '45 team, considered by Colonel Blaik and his two stars to have been the best of the three, set records for average gain per rushing play (7.64) and average gain per play (7.92). That team averaged 459 yards a game. The '46 team, depleted by graduations, dismissals and injuries to Blanchard and quarterback Young Arnold Tucker, and playing against such war-veteran-revived powers as Oklahoma, Michigan and Notre Dame, still finished undefeated, outscoring all 10 opponents 263 to 80.
But the Black Knights of the Hudson would never again ride so triumphantly. "I finally figured out what will stop Blanchard and Davis," Giants coach Owen slyly advised some of his college coaching friends. "Graduation."
And so it did. Blanchard graduated 296th and Davis 305th in a 1947 class of 310, but the Corps of Cadets gave each of them the longest and loudest cheers heard that day. Actually, there was rejoicing all over the country in that second postwar spring. The boys were home again, wartime restrictions had been lifted, and the nation was entering an era of unprecedented prosperity. But at the same time that veterans were shedding their uniforms for civilian clothes, the two most famous football players in the land were getting their marching orders. And all the while, professional football, just entering its own era of prosperity, was offering them a share in the postwar boom.
Ina Davis had packed a fried chicken lunch for her twin sons, Ralph and Glenn, to take with them on the train trip back to New York that summer of 1944. Glenn was the younger brother by five minutes, so he was called Junior, a nickname that had stuck with him from childhood, in Claremont, Calif. Ralph had been a pretty fair athlete at Bonita Union High, a shot-putter on the track team and a football end. But Glenn was already a legend, a four-sport star who was being hailed as the best athlete ever to come out of Southern California. In his senior year at Bonita, he had scored 236 points in nine football games. "You gave him the ball and he was gone," said Ralph, his biggest fan. Glenn also passed and kicked in coach John Price's single wing.
But, for all of his athletic success—he was All-California Interscholastic Federation in football, baseball and basketball (second team) and a champion sprinter—Glenn was the shy one of the brothers. They lived in a fine old house on a sycamore-lined street in Claremont with Ina and Ralph Sr., a banker, and an older sister, Mary. The boys also worked and played together in the orange orchard the family owned in nearby La Verne. It was altogether a blissful and innocent time in a Southern California that then had open space and more sunshine than smog.
The twins were set to enter USC after graduation in 1943, but Blaik, who had heard of Davis's exploits from a friend, invited Glenn to come east and play for Army. Glenn agreed, but only if Ralph could join him. The brothers were accepted as a package, and they got their appointments from California Congressman Jerry Voorhis, who would later lose his seat to a young lawyer named Richard Nixon, who accused him of being soft on Communism.
The twins went east in the spring of 1943 and lived with Blaik and his wife while studying for the entrance exams, which they passed. Glenn played fullback and right halfback on a '43 Army team that was still adjusting to the T formation Blaik had installed the year before. As a plebe playing varsity, which was permitted then, he gained 634 yards on 95 carries, a 6.7-per-carry average, and scored eight touchdowns. Army won seven games that year but lost 26-0 to Notre Dame and 13-0 to Navy, and was tied 13-13 by Penn. Glenn was named to several All-America teams. Ralph, as he would throughout his West Point stay, played on the B squad.
But Ralph did better academically. Glenn discovered early on that West Point made few concessions to athletes, and he was simply not prepared for the rigors of classwork, barracks discipline and varsity football. "I just couldn't do it all," he says now. "I was taking five classes every day. I'd get out of the last one at 3:30 and be on the football field at 4:00. I wouldn't get home until 6:30. Then I'd have dinner and study."
The routine was too much for Glenn. He flunked mathematics that spring of his plebe year and went home to Claremont, where he took courses at Webb School for Boys in preparation for reentering the Academy the next fall. Ralph, who would graduate a year ahead of his brother, found this separation "very rough, the saddest time for me. Glenn was my brother, my best friend. To this day, I've never met a finer man."
But now, in July 1944, they were together again, returning by train from San Bernardino to West Point. Glenn had been readmitted as a plebe and would be eligible for the football season.
As the brothers talked, they noticed that a tall, silver-haired man seated across from them seemed to be taking more than a casual interest in their conversation. "My name is Shaughnessy," the stranger finally said, introducing himself. "Clark Shaughnessy." The twins laughed in recognition. Clark Shaughnessy. Why, he'd coached Stanford's 1940 Wow Boys to an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl win. His was the team that ignited the T-formation revolution in college football. Shaughnessy, who was coaching at the University of Pittsburgh that year, told them he was a good friend of Blaik's and that, in fact, he had touted to the Army coach a sensational fullback he'd seen play freshman football at the University of North Carolina. "You'll be seeing him this fall," he told the twins. "Remember the name: Felix Blanchard." Glenn said he certainly would.
Shaughnessy had coached Blanchard's father, Felix Anthony Blanchard Sr., at Tulane in 1920. The elder Blanchard had also been a fine fullback, and though he had gone on to medical school and started up a practice in the little town of McColl, S.C., he had never lost interest in the game. He had, in fact, married Mary Tatum, a cousin of Jim Tatum's. Tatum was later the coach at North Carolina, Maryland and Oklahoma. By the time Felix Jr. was three, he was kicking the ball on the front lawn of the Blanchard home.
The Blanchards had moved from South Carolina to Dexter, Iowa, in 1929, but returned two years later to Bishopville, S.C., where Little Doc, as he was known, went to school until he was 13. Then Big Doc enrolled him in the St. Stanislaus prep school in Bay St. Louis, Miss., where he himself had first learned to play football. Little Doc stayed at St. Stanislaus for four years, and in his senior year scored 165 points and led an otherwise so-so football team to an undefeated regular season.
Young Blanchard was besieged with college football scholarship offers, and he settled on North Carolina, where his mother's cousin was the head coach. He starred on the Tar Heel freshman team in 1942 (that year freshmen were still unable to play varsity) and was drafted into the Army the following spring. He played no football in 1943, but West Point became interested in him, and on July 1, 1944, he received his appointment to the Academy from South Carolina Congressman John L. McMillan.
Blanchard reported for the Beast Barracks indoctrination for new cadets. Davis, although technically a plebe, was not there to suffer with him; he had undergone the ordeal a year earlier. Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside did not meet until the first day of football practice, an encounter much dramatized in film and story. But neither of the principals recalls anything significant about their meeting beyond "Pleased to meet you."
Blanchard and Davis were entirely different personalities then. Davis was the more earnest of the two, something of a worrier, a physical-fitness zealot who neither smoked nor drank. He had a round baby face, and a lock of hair that always seemed to be spilling over his forehead. He was photographed more often pouting than smiling.
Blanchard, on the other hand, was something of a good-time Charlie. "I never regarded Glenn as exactly shy, but Doc was looser, less straitlaced," says former teammate Coulter. "He was just a lot of fun. I remember Colonel Blaik asking each of us before our first practice if we drank. Well, most of us dodged that one, but Doc just said, 'Oh, sure.' "
Blanchard was actually closer to Ralph Davis than he was to Glenn. "Doc was such a good guy, always joking, laughing, so easy to get along with," says Ralph, now a real estate appraiser in Joshua Tree, Calif. "The track coach asked me to teach him the shot put. It was something he'd never done before, but he went from 30 feet to almost 54 feet in the same season."
Anyone knowing the two football players then would have guessed that Blanchard would be the one to bridle at West Point restrictions and want to get out of the Army as soon as possible, and that the self-disciplined Davis would be the one to adapt to the regimen. And it would surely be Blanchard, well known as a ladies' man, who would date one actress, Elizabeth Taylor no less, and marry another, Terry Moore. It is one of the peculiar paradoxes of the Blanchard-Davis legend that it was exactly the other way around. And now, years after West Point, it is as if they had just switched personalities; Glenn is outgoing and Doc retiring.
Their final season together was the most taxing and, because of the Notre Dame tie and the narrow Navy win, the most disappointing. And yet because the team lacked depth, it was the most rewarding. The team had lost through graduation or dismissal All-America linemen Coulter, John Green and Al Nemetz. And in the opening game, against Villanova, Blanchard tore ligaments in his left knee and missed the next two games, against Oklahoma and Cornell.
He returned, still hurting, to the lineup for the fourth game, against Michigan, a team loaded with stars like Bob Chappuis, Bump Elliott, Jack Weisenburger, Len Ford and Bob Mann. On the fourth play of the game, Army quarterback Tucker, himself an All-America, suffered a shoulder separation and a sprained elbow and wrist in his passing arm. Davis, taking direct snaps through the quarterback's legs or pitchouts on the pass-run option, took over the Army passing game. He completed seven of eight for 168 yards, including a 23-yard toss to Folsom for a touchdown. He also had a 69-yard touchdown run. Blanchard, held to 44 yards for the day, scored the winning touchdown in the 13-10 win on a seven-yard plunge in the fourth quarter.
The Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9 was one of the most publicized college football games ever played. The undefeated Irish had a lineup loaded with once and future All-Americas—Johnny Lujack at quarterback with his backups George Ratter-man and Frank Tripucka, and All-America linemen George Connor, Bill Fischer and Jim Martin. They were out to avenge successive 59-0 and 48-0 cadet wins over inferior wartime Notre Dame teams.
Notre Dame would eventually be crowned national champion after Army's narrow scrape with Navy. Army was also undefeated, of course, but the Notre Dame game was a bust. "It was the most boring game I've ever played in," says Blanchard. "I think Blaik and [Irish coach Frank] Leahy were more worried about losing than winning." Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside together gained only 82 yards on 35 carries.
In the Navy game two weeks later, they did much better, Blanchard scoring on a 53-yard run and on a 27-yard pass from Davis, and Davis on a 14-yard run, but the cadets had to hold off a second-half comeback by the midshipmen, and the game ended with Navy on the Army five-yard line. The Blanchard-Davis era had ended quietly.
So now what? Both stars were confronted with a three-year military commitment. But there were also tempting pro football offers from teams in both the established National Football League and the new All-America Conference. Davis was drafted by the Detroit Lions and Blanchard by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers of the AAC acquired rights to both of them and were prepared to offer them $130,000 apiece—$10,000 in signing bonuses and $40,000 annually for three years—this at a time when the pro game's best players were earning barely $20,000 a year.
Davis and Blanchard appealed to Major General Maxwell Taylor, the West Point superintendent, to have their normal postgraduation 60-day furlough extended another two months so they might at least play the '47 season for the 49ers. They further proposed, and Taylor concurred, that they be given four-month leaves in each of the next three years in exchange for an open-ended military commitment.
The request was leaked to the press and became, as it were, a political football. "I thought we sent these boys to West Point to be future officers and not pro football players," fumed Congressman Les Arends of Illinois. Hearst columnist Bill Corum threatened to boycott their games if they ever played pro football. The War Department, sensing a no-win situation, emphatically denied the requests for extended leaves, remarking in a press release that "any other decision would be inimical to the best interests of the service."
Blanchard accepted the decision with a shrug. "I'd like to have had the money," he says now. But Davis, who had concluded after four years at the Academy that the Army was no life for him, was bitterly disappointed. The two spent their postgraduation furlough playing football before the movie cameras in Hollywood, filming The Spirit of West Point. It was a turkey, but they were paid $20,000 apiece, partial compensation at least for the lost football income.
Blanchard had a ball in Hollywood. "I met James Cagney, Hopalong Cassidy [William Boyd], Alan Hale and William Bendix," he says. "I found there were actually a few real people out there—not too many, but a few." For Davis the moviemaking adventure was a disaster. Filming a football scene on the UCLA campus, he twisted his right knee making a cut and fell to the turf. Davis, who had never been injured in an actual football game, had been hurt in a sham one.
Blanchard was stunned by this freak injury to a player he considered indestructible. "We were just horsing around making that scene," he recalls. "Glenn didn't do anything unusual. He jus* made a normal cut and...well, he was never the same after that."
"It was," says Davis, "the end of me."
Davis reinjured the knee practicing for the annual College All-Star game against the 1946 NFL champion Chicago Bears. He missed that game, then hurt the knee again while playing for another all-star squad in a charity game in New York against the Giants. A few weeks later, he underwent surgery in New York. More than 40 years later his knee is loose and wandering. As a player he found he could not run to his right and cut to his left and that even his straight-ahead speed was affected by the bandages and braces he needed to wear to keep the knee in place.
But Davis did not give up on football. He worked out with the Rams, who had obtained rights to him, during his furlough in 1948. More significantly, perhaps, he also met a lovely 16-year-old actress named Elizabeth Taylor at her parents' home in Malibu. The next year, a storybook romance seemed to be underway between the ail-American boy and the movie beauty. Davis had been assigned to an Army base in Korea, and when he returned on leave to Miami he was met at the airport by both Taylor and Life photographers. Their reunion was recorded in the March 21, 1949, Life, with Taylor depicted wiping lipstick from "the handsome lieutenant's" face after an embrace.
In December 1947, Davis had asked to be discharged early from the Army, but the request was denied. He served his full three years, with 18 months of the hitch in Korea. He finally resigned in time to join the Rams for the 1950 season, but once again his timing, flawless in football, was faulty in the real world. War in Korea broke out in June 1950, less than two months after Davis, an infantry officer who had been stationed on the embattled 38th parallel, left there to resume his long-delayed football career. Once more, he became prey for angry politicians and newspaper pundits.
Robert Ruark, the novelist then writing a syndicated column, equated Davis's resignation from the Army at a time of national emergency with the defection to Russia of "avowed Communist" Paul Robeson. Ruark wrote, "Mr. Davis worked for the Army a couple of years of the recent postwar period, to pay off Uncle Sam, quit his commission and is now playing professional football as anticlimax to his romance with Elizabeth Taylor." Dan Parker of the New York Daily Mirror rose to Davis's defense: "The Army enrolled Davis for his athletic prowess, not because he looked like General Grant in the bud. He played his role well, and has now put in two years soldiering."
The controversy over Davis's efforts to get out of the Army and the mostly embarrassing publicity he had received for his amatory adventures in Hollywood—two years after his fling with Taylor, he was married briefly to Moore—may well have delayed Davis's induction into the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. Blanchard was admitted in 1959, and Davis two years later, but only after an intense and angry campaign by Army sports information director Joseph Cahill.
In 1960, Cahill wrote the Foundation: "Contrary to the belief of the uninformed, Glenn fulfilled his military obligation in an honorable manner.... This he did without fanfare. That 18 months of this time was served in the dismal atmosphere of Korea is pertinent. As for the small segment who would defame his current status as a respected citizen, I would like to report that he is a happily married man [to his current wife, the former Harriet Lancaster Slack] with two children."
Davis played two years with the Rams. Despite the gimpy knee, he led the team in rushing in 1950 with a 4.28 average per carry and caught 42 passes for 592 yards. In the league championship game that year with the Cleveland Browns, which the Rams lost 30-28, he caught a pass from Bob Waterfield and ran 50 yards with it for the 'first Los Angeles touchdown.
But Davis's old injury and the three-year layoff had sorely diminished his skills. "It was really tough for me to come back," he says. "It would take me two days or more to recover from a game. I was a mere image of what I had been. I was a better player my senior year in high school than I was with the Rams."
In 1951, Davis played sparingly because of injuries, rushing 64 times for 200 yards. He sat out the '52 season, then tried to make a comeback in '53, but the battered knee would not respond. His last game was a Rams exhibition against the Philadelphia Eagles in Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 12, 1953. Mr. Outside was finished. He was not quite 29.
Blanchard never gave pro football a thought after the 49er affair. But he played football in 1947 for Randolph Field, an Air Force Base in Texas, where he was a pilot trainee. He married a San Antonio woman, Jody King, on Oct. 12, 1948, and got his wings at almost the same time. In 1959, while stationed in England, he won a special citation for taking a burning plane in for a safe landing away from a village. He did some coaching, both at West Point and at the Air Force Academy, but he was by that time a full-fledged fighter jock, and in 1967-68 he flew 85 combat missions over North Vietnam and won a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Blanchard retired from the Air Force as a full colonel in 1971 and served for two years as the commandant of the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.Mex. In 1973, he retired permanently. He was 49. The Blanchards have a son, two daughters and seven grandchildren, one of whom, 15-year-old Mary Ellen Blanchard, swam in the Olympic trials last summer. Blanchard says he lives in virtual anonymity in San Antonio. "People down here don't know you played unless it was for Texas or A & M. Anywhere else, they just say, 'Where's that, boy?' "
Davis took a job as assistant director of special events for the Los Angeles Times in 1954 and became the director in 1960, responsible for the countless charity athletic events staged by the newspaper, including, for 20 years, the NFL Pro Bowl Game. He married Harriet, a war widow, on April 17, 1953, and they have a son, Ralph, as well as her son, John, from the previous marriage.
Davis retired from the Times in January 1987 and moved from North Hollywood to a condominium just off the 6th tee at the La Quinta Country Club. He's an eight-handicap golfer whose partners number such neighbors as former President Gerald Ford. Bob Hope, Don Drysdale and George Blanda. Davis is, as publicist Cahill wrote so many years ago, "a happily married man." He is also as affable and approachable now as he was shy and withdrawn years ago. His modesty is genuine, not feigned, and he would as soon talk about his newspaper days as he would the football years. But he has not been forgotten. "It's amazing, but I still get at least a half dozen fan letters every week. People send me cards and clippings and magazine covers—Doc and I were on the covers of both Life and Time—and they're people of all ages, too, not just of my vintage. After all these years, that's really something."
They march shoulder-to-shoulder across the broad West Point Plain, past the monuments to Ike and MacArthur, past the stark granite Gothic buildings that nestle between the green hills and the silvery Hudson. The Army band is playing an incongruous medley of Over There; Jesus Loves Me; On, Brave Old Army Team; Onward, Christian Soldiers; and Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here. It is, in fact, quite a gang Glenn and Doc are marching with in the alumni parade at this Homecoming celebration.
Major General (ret.) George S. Patton III, son of Old Blood and Guts, is beside them. And in their company are General Roscoe Robinson, Jr., the Army's first black man to achieve four-star rank, and General Sam S. Walker, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute. The alumni ranks are led by 85-year-old Major General (ret.) Charles E. Saltzman, class of 1925. a brisk and humorous man who walked up to Glenn and Doc before the parade and announced. "I'm going to tell the coach to put you two boys in against Lafayette today."
"Well, if that's the case, you must not like us very much," replied Doc.
The parade comes to rest before the glowering statue of Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, "The Father of the Military Academy." A bugler blows Taps and Saltzman places a wreath at the feet of old Thayer. The Academy Glee Club sings The Corps:
Grip hands—though it be from the shadows—
While we swear as, you did of yore, Or living, or dying, to honor
The Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps!
Harriet Davis watches her husband, dapper in a brand new trenchcoat, stand roughly at attention through this ceremony. "You know," she says, "I don't think there's anything Glenn has ever accomplished that he's prouder of than graduating from West Point."
The visiting alumni are guests of Lieutenant General Dave R. Palmer, superintendent of the Academy, at a luncheon before the game. Glenn and Doc do their best to blend in with the other old grads, but with little success, for the room is alive with memories of them. "I'm Colonel Al Rushton, director of admissions here," says one smiling man in uniform, "and I just want to tell you that you two have been my heroes since I was in grammar school."
"Grammar school?" asks an abashed Doc. "Glenn, I told you it wasn't gonna get any better. Didn't it used to be high school?"
General Palmer calls the large room to attention. "Ladies and gentlemen," he says, "I was unable to get Grant and Lee for you today, or Eisenhower and MacArthur, but we do have another pair of Army heroes here, and I must call them a pair, because that's certainly what they were. Will you please join me in welcoming Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard."
The guests rise to their feet and the room fairly explodes with applause. Slowly, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside set aside their luncheon plates to stand in acknowledgment of this thunderous reception. True enough, Blanchard and Davis were never Grant and Lee. The one was a fighter jock, the other a reluctant infantry lieutenant. They're middle-aged now. gone a little gray, a little paunchy. They are both of them humble enough and sane enough to accept with good humor that to new generations of Americans they will be strangers. But their eyes glisten as they stand before this applauding crowd. Here, on the banks of the Hudson, they will always have a place. And as the applause rises, they look at each other with genuine affection and respect, and they share a little smile. Together again. Together forever.