After his freshman year at North Carolina, in 1942, Felix Anthony Blanchard tried to enlist in the Navy's V-12 program, which allowed students to complete their education in exchange for a service commitment. He was turned down for, among other things, being overweight. The decision came back to haunt the Navy: Doc Blanchard, who died from pneumonia at his home in the Texas town of Bulverde on Sunday, ended up enrolling at West Point, where he led Army's football team to three wins in as many years over the Naval Academy. Following the first, in 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur took time out from his duties in the Pacific theater to send a wire: "The greatest of all Army teams.... We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success."
Blanchard teamed with Glenn Davis to form the most feared and famed backfield of their day. (They appeared on covers of TIME and LIFE.) A battering ram of a fullback, Blanchard was known as Mr. Inside to the athletic Davis's Mr. Outside. (Arthur Daley of The New York Times called Blanchard "that berserk water buffalo.") Blanchard became the first junior to win the Heisman in 1945, then Davis won it the next year. In their three years together they led the Cadets to 27 wins and a tie (0--0 against Notre Dame in 1946) in 28 games. Naturally, pro teams were intrigued at the prospect of keeping them together; the San Francisco 49ers of the All-America Football Conference acquired the rights to both players and offered $130,00 apiece over three years, but the Army, fearing a p.r. backlash, refused to alter the terms of their commitments to allow them to play. The only serious football Blanchard ever played after he graduated was at Randolph Field, an Air Force Base in Texas, where he got his wings in 1948. But his postgridiron career was fruitful: Before retiring from the Air Force in 1971, he flew 113 combat missions during the Vietnam War and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.