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Ron Fimrite
November 21, 1988
Doc Blanchard (right) was the inside man and Glenn Davis ruled the outside for Army's fabled teams of the 1940s
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November 21, 1988

Mr. Inside & Mr. Outside

Doc Blanchard (right) was the inside man and Glenn Davis ruled the outside for Army's fabled teams of the 1940s

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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.

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