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October 20, 1998

By Thad Mumau
reprinted with permission from Cavalier Corner

It would have been fun to see Bob Davis ois orginial football team.

Entering this season, Davis was fifth on the Cavaliers perate with the supporting cast of the current Virginia football team.

Entering this season, Davis was fifth on the Cavaliers ca0 eP0reer total offense list with 4,025 yards. He passed for 3,095 yards and ran for 930. He also ran for his life a lot of Saturday afternoons.

Virginia’s record during Davis three varsity seasons, 1964-66, was 14-16. His first two years the Cavs went 5-5, followed by a 4-6 season.

In addition to having less help than today’s UVa quarterbacks, he also had far fewer opportunities. The four QBs ahead of him on the schools total offense chart Shawn Moore, Scott Gardner, Don Majkowski and Mike Groh all had four varsity seasons while Davis had three. The leader, Moore, had 1,177 combined rushing and passing attempts for 7,897 yards. Davis only had 714 plays, 463 less than Moore. Not only did Davis have one less season than today’s players, college teams played just 10 regular-season games back then.

We had some good players, but not enough of them, Davis said. We had a very good recruiting class. They called us the 21 Jewels. But as freshmen, we only played three games. That, of course, was when there were freshman teams.

Davis played some varsity basketball as well as football at Virginia after being a three-sport high school star at Neptune, N.J.

After my sophomore football season, (the late) Bill Gibson asked me to come out for basketball, Davis recalled. He had seen me play intramurals as a freshman and thought I could help the team.

Davis started the last 10 games of the 1964-65 season and averaged 9.1 points and 4.1 rebounds. It was his only season of college hoops, since he decided to stick to football his last two years.

He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1966 when he led the league in total offense with 1,688 yards. He passed for 1,461 yards and 10 touchdowns and ran for 227 yards and six TDs.

That was nice, Davis said, but what I remember most about that season was an unfortunate loss to Clemson. I was a senior, and we were up, 35-17, with 10 or 11 minutes to go in the game. They came back and beat us, 40-35. That was the most frustrating game Ive ever been in. We did everything right and still lost.

Davis was honored as National Back of the Week for his effort against the Tigers. He piled up 352 total yards, including 312 through the air on 26-of-48 passing. He was even more productive against Georgia Tech as a third-year, amassing 376 total yards, with 124 coming on the ground. He surpassed 300 total yards one other time, getting 334 against Wake Forest as a second-year.

At 6-2 and 195 pounds and possessing outstanding speed, Davis was much like today’s new breed of quarterbacks with his mobility. He had good size and the ability to move out of the pocket and make things happen, either by dashing for yardage or throwing on the run.

He was agile, with the broken-field running ability of a tailback. Because he was so hard to catch, flushing him out of the pocket was often the worst thing a defensive line could do.

Sadly, Davis lost his best weapon and his best chance at pro football success on the last play of his college career.

I was trying to run out the clock (in a 21-14 Virginia win over North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and my knee just went out on me. Nobody even hit me; that’s the strange thing. The anterior cruciate ligament was ruptured and both cartilages were torn, recalled Davis.

Knee surgery was not nearly as advanced in the 60s, and Davis was never the same. He was drafted No. 2 by the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. Prior to his injury, the San Francisco 49ers considered taking him in the NFL draft as a running back. In 1971, he started eight games for the New York Jets when Joe Namath was injured. He was with the New Orleans Saints in 1973 and then played in the World Football League.

I couldnt run any more after the surgery, Davis said. I had a good arm, but not a great one, and without the ability to scramble, I was never the same. I was kind of lost.

But certainly not forgotten in Charlottesville. Two years ago, he was honored at halftime of the Cavaliers home game against North Carolina, a team against which Davis always played well.

I remember being so impressed with the facilities at Virginia and the tutorial program they have, he said. It’s great the way the tutors work with the players to help them graduate. Virginia is very tough academically, and the school didnt give athletes any leeway.

It is wonderful to see what Coach (George) Welsh has done the great records and graduation rates. That makes me extremely proud.

An economics major and a Deans List student in school, Davis owned a restaurant before switching to the banking business. He is the regional vice-president of Sun National Bank in Vineland, N.J. He has been honored as the area YMCA Man of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and the Distinguished Business Leader Award winner for the Monmouth Ocean Development Council.

Davis and his wife, Kit, have been married 32 years. They have a son and daughter and one grandson.

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