Former Vol Bob Davis Dies at 81

July 10th, 2012

From the Knoxville News Sentinel

by Tom Mattingly

Bob Davis, who mastered the intricate single wing center snaps during his career at the University of Tennessee and was a member of the national championship team in 1951, died Sunday in Knoxville. He was 81.

Mr. Davis not only played at Tennessee, but returned to Knoxville as freshman coach in 1966 and served in a variety of capacities with the athletic department until he retired in 2003. He was honored in 2002 when the Vols played Kentucky at Neyland Stadium. He coached on staffs headed by Doug Dickey and Bill Battle before serving as administrative assistant to the athletic director, assistant athletic director/operations, and assistant athletic director/ facilities.

He came to Tennessee in 1948 as part of a talented freshman class, one that included Hank Lauricella, Jim Haslam, Andy Kozar, Herky Payne, Bill Pearman, Bert Rechichar, Vince Kaseta, Bill Jasper, Ted Daffer, Jimmy Hahn, Gordon Polofsky, Andy Myers, Frank “Boomer” Boring, and Dick Ernsberger.

“I never saw Bob noticeably upset or critical of anyone,” said Hahn, a blocking back of that era and Mr. Davis’ roommate for three years in East Stadium Hall. “He was always a gentleman, happy, content, and friendly with everyone.”

Mr. Davis wore No. 90 during his career, one that was the culmination of Bob Neyland’s Tennessee coaching tenure. He was part of a freshman class of 120 that included 11 centers.

He played on teams that compiled a 28-4-1 record and won the SEC and con­sensus national title in 1951 and Dunkel national crown in 1950. The Vols played in the Cotton and Sugar Bowls, winning over Texas in 1951 and losing to Maryland in 1952, respectively, during his career. He recalled weighing 178 pounds when arriving in Knoxville and ballooning to 182 by the time he was a senior.

“He was a heck of a player for his size,” said Lauricella, a three-year starter at tailback and the Heisman Trophy runner­up in 1951. “I don’t remember having a bad snap. He was an exceptional center, often snapping with a big lineman ready to pound him.”

He was named to the All-Time Tennessee Team as selected by the Knoxville Journal in the early 1950s. He was inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

Inducted into the U.S. Army after graduation, Davis gained his first coaching experience at Fort Jackson, S.C., where his information officer was another future UT athletics employee, Haywood Harris. An assistant in 1953, Davis was promoted to coach in 1954.

He was named an assistant coach at Sevier County High School in 1955 and was promoted to coach for the next three seasons. The following year, while working toward a master’s degree at UT, Davis became a part-time football assistant to Ray Harmon at Carson-Newman College. Davis was named to Carson-Newman’s full-time staff in 1960 and worked as an assistant to Harmon until being named coach in 1964. His two-year record with the Eagles was 11-7.

In addition to serving as freshman coach from 1966-68 and 1971-73, Davis coached varsity defensive ends in 1969 and was junior varsity coach in 1970 and from 1974-75.

With UT’s reinstatement of wrestling as a varsity sport, Davis was called on to be wrestling coach and he served in that capacity from 1970-74.

He is survived by three children, Leigh, Bobby, and Mark, and four grand-children, Phillip and Chris Davis, and Ryan and Erin Hicks, and two great-grandchildren, Riley and Ryland Hicks.

The family will receive friends Thurs day night at Rose Mann Heritage Chapel, 6200 Kingston Pike, from 5-8 p.m. Services will be on Friday at 11:30 a.m., at the new Veteran’s Cemetery, 2200 East John Sevier Highway, with Rev. Jim Bailes officiating.
The University of Tennessee contributed to this report.

Tom Mattingly is a freelance contributor.

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