Anthony Davis was a college football All-American in 1974, and led the USC Trojans in rushing, scoring and kick return yardage for three consecutive seasons. He is especially remembered for scoring 11 touchdowns in three games against Notre Dame. In a 45-23 USC win on December 2, 1972, he scored six touchdowns which set a school single game record. Two of those scores came on kickoff returns. He returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown after Notre Dame won the coin toss and chose to kick. Later in the game after Notre Dame scored on a short pass and narrowed the Trojans’ lead, he returned the following kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. In this game, Davis had three kickoff returns for a total of 218 yards giving him an average of 72.7 yards per return. This set an NCAA record for the highest average gain per return in a single game. In his career as a Trojan he returned 37 kickoffs for 1,299 yards, an NCAA record 35.1 yard average. His six career kickoff returns for touchdowns set an NCAA record which stood until 2009, when it was broken by C.J. Spiller of Clemson University . Davis’ kickoff return average of 42.5 yards in 1974, is the highest kickoff return average for any single season leader ever. He was also the first Pacific-8 Conference player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons – 1,191 in 1972; 1,112 in 1973 and 1,469 in 1974. For his career at USC he carried the ball 784 times for 3,772 yards and 44 touchdowns. In his senior year (1974) he was a unanimous Consensus All-American selection. Davis was also a two-time (1973–1974) first team All Pac-8 Conference selection. He was also the third multiple recipient of the W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. Davis won the Voit trophy in 1972 and 1974.
On November 30, 1974, he started an amazing rally which brought the USC Trojans back from a 24-0 second quarter deficit against #4 ranked Notre Dame to a 55-24 win. Just before halftime he scored on a 7-yard lateral pass from quarterback Pat Haden. Davis found paydirt a second time on a 102-yard kickoff return to open the second half. With only 3:25 elapsed in the third quarter Davis scored a third touchdown on a 6-yard run. Then with still 8:37 left in the same quarter, Davis added his fourth and final touchdown of the game on a 4-yard dash, dropped to his knees, went into his “endzone dance“, then added a two-point conversion and the Trojans had the lead 27-24. Incredibly, Davis had scored 26 of the Trojans’ first 27 points.
In 1974, Heisman Trophy ballots were due prior to the end of the season and before that year’s USC-Notre Dame game. Anthony finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Archie Griffin. From that day forward, Heisman voting would take place after all the regular season games had been played. From 1972-1974, with Davis as the tailback the Trojans compiled a 31-3-2 record, three conference titles, two Rose Bowl victories in three appearances and two national championships. Upon the completion of his career, he accumulated 24 school, conference and NCAA records, including over 5,400 all-purpose yards and 52 touchdowns.
Anthony Davis’ talents weren’t just limited to football, he was also successful in baseball. He was an outfielder and switch-hitter on USC’s 1972, 1973 and 1974 College World Series champion baseball teams. Playing with wood bats at the time, Davis hit .273 with 6 home runs, 45 RBIs and 13 stolen bases for the Trojan’s 1974 National Championship Baseball team.
During his Trojan career, Davis won five National Championships – two in football, three in baseball.As a two-sport standout, Davis holds the distinction of being the only player in school history to start for a National Champion Football team (1972) and a National Champion Baseball team (1974). He did not finish his degree at USC.
The Notre Dame vs. USC game on November 27, 2004 was titled the “Anthony Davis Day,” in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the record-breaking game.
He also was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine three times, including one foldout.
After graduation Davis was drafted by the New York Jets of the National Football League in the 2nd round of the 1975 draft. At the time, the Jets had quarterback Joe Namath and offered a major stage, but the team’s management were not willing to give in to his contract demands. Thus in 1975 Davis opted to play for the Southern California Sun of the upstart World Football League (WFL); he signed a five-year, $1.7-million deal that reportedly included a $200,000 cash bonus and a Rolls-Royce. He led the WFL in rushing with 1,200 yards on 239 carries and 16 touchdowns at the time of its demise. He also caught 40 passes for 381 yards and one TD, while on kickoff returns he ran back 9 for 235 yards and one TD. In all, he scored 18 TDs in the WFL for 133 points. His 16 touchdowns for rushing over 12 games is a WFL record. He also threw the ball and completed 4 of 11 attempts for 102 yards and one TD. The league folded and Davis moved on.
Davis headed to the Canadian Football League in 1976, and became the league’s first “million dollar man.” His time with the Toronto Argonauts was not happy. His star ego clashed with CFL legend and Argo coach Russ Jackson‘s idea of a team player. He ended up rushing 104 times for 417 yards and catching 37 passes for 408 yards. He scored 4 TDs.
During the final game of the 1976 regular season, in a game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (in Hamilton, Ontario) Argo quarterback Matthew Reed, desperate to find an open receiver threw an incomplete pass to Davis. When Reed returned to the bench, assistant coach Joe Moss told him never to throw the ball to Davis again. Davis was called the most expensive passing decoy in the history of the league.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Davis in the 1976 expansion draft, with his old USC coach John McKay hoping to turn some new magic. Alas, Davis’ NFL career would be a disappointment. In 11 games for the Bucs, Davis would rush 95 times for 297 yards (3.1 yard average) and catch 8 passes and score one touchdown. He would play 2 games for the Houston Oilers in 1978, and 2 games in 1979 for the Los Angeles Rams, rushing 3 times for 7 yards.
In 1983, four years after he last played, he has a short stint with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL, rushing 12 times for 32 yards.
Davis can regularly be heard as a commentator on Fox Sports Radio.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights… Former USC Trojans running back Anthony Davis.