- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2003

For anyone old enough to remember the World War II sports scene — and even for those who aren’t — NFL Films’ tribute to Army football stars Felix “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis should be must viewing. The 21-minute segment premieres New Year’s night on the fledgling NFL Network as part of the one-hour program “NFL Films Presents: Commanders and Kings.”

The two running backs terrorized opponents from 1944 to 1946 while powering the Black Knights to a 27-0-1 record plus two national championships and nearly a third. Between them, they scored 97 touchdowns and 585 points. Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy in ‘45 and Davis in ‘46, making them the only teammates to do so.

A later Army All-American, Pete Dawkins, calls them “the rock stars of their day,” but that doesn’t explain why nearly six decades later the pair is still mobbed at autograph shows by fans, many of whom never saw them play.

A better explanation might be their charismatic nicknames — Mr. Inside for Blanchard, Mr. Outside for Davis — and the fact they represent an era of college football long gone. Says New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi: “The magic they projected had a spiritual effect on the country [because] they were playing for the United States Military Academy, which was producing our officers to go into war.”

The documentary includes much game footage, with Davis featured because of his blazing speed and deceptive moves in the open field. There was no television during their careers, of course, so the two gained their most exposure through radio and newsreels. Davis played briefly for the Los Angeles Rams after completing his military obligation, retiring in 1951. Blanchard never played in the NFL, spending 25 years as an Air Force officer and surviving 25 missions in Vietnam.

Though the two have been friends for 60 years, the film notes their different personalities, which seemed to mirror their on-field roles. Blanchard was the workhorse, a quiet man who let his play do most of the talking. Blanchard was a flashy glamour boy who didn’t shun the spotlight.

“Is it true that you dated Elizabeth Taylor?” NFL Films president Steve Sabol asks Davis at one amusing point.

There is a long silence before Davis replies, laughing, “What do you want me to say? … The answer is no!”

Although most other schools had regained their star players from the military by 1946, a less potent Army team hung on to preserve its high ranking despite a scoreless tie with Notre Dame and a 21-18 victory over a Navy team that failed by inches to score the winning touchdown on the final play. The Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium was the most eagerly anticipated matchup of the decade, one that famed sportswriter Grantland Rice described memorably as “much ado about nothing-nothing.”

It’s difficult nowadays to realize that Army — winless this season — once was a bona fide football power. The biggest reason was Blanchard-Davis, who were and remain an entry. As the documentary notes at its close, “A half-century later, they still exist as one legend, destined to run together through time.”


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