Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside - A Book Report
by Randy Snow
Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Friday, January 2, 2015
In the new book, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, author Jack Cavanaugh tells the story of not one, but two Heisman Trophy winners who played at West Point in the 1940s. Glenn Davis was known as Mr. Outside and his teammate, Felix “Doc” Blanchard, was known as Mr. Inside. They played on a West Point team that never lost a game in three seasons (1944-1946) and won back-to-back college football national championships.
Glenn Davis grew up in La Verne, California near Pomona and played football at Bonita Union High School, a small school with only 350 students. He was a star halfback when the team used the single wing formation and also played quarterback when they used the T-Formation offense.
Word of his exploits on the football field made it all the way to Army head coach Earl “Red” Blaik at West Point. Blaik learned of Davis from a friend, Warren Bentley, a drama professor at Dartmouth, where Blaik had coached from 1934-1940. Bentley had attended college in Pomona and heard about Davis from relatives who lived there.
Blaik had never recruited a player from the West Coast before, but he wrote a letter to Davis’ parents and later called them and invited Glenn to come visit West Point and take the entrance exam. Glenn agreed, but only after Blaik allowed his twin brother, Ralph, to also come along and take the entrance exam.
The boys left for West Point in May of 1943 even before their high school graduation. It took the brothers four days to get to the Academy by train from California. They were met at the train station by Blaik. They even stayed in Blaik’s home for a while along with his wife and their two sons. Glenn and Ralph both passed the entrance exam and on July 1, they entered the dorms on campus for the fall semester.
In 1943, Blaik switched from running the single wing offense at West Point to the new T-Formation offense. The single wing had been used for decades by most teams in college football. It consisted of four players in the backfield; a quarterback, fullback and two halfbacks, usually in a box formation. The ball could be snapped to any one of them by the center. The T-Formation had the quarterback taking the snap directly from the center with the three backs lined up in a row behind him, forming what looked like the letter “T.”
Davis was not expecting to play much in his freshman season of 1932, but an injury to the Cadet’s starting fullback opened the door for him to start at fullback on the varsity team. Davis had never played fullback before, but he played well and the team finished the season with a 7-2-1 record. While Davis may have excelled on the field, he struggled in the classroom, especially in math. In March 1944, Davis failed a math class and was “found deficient.” He was expelled from West Point and returned home to California. He then enrolled in a college prep school to help him in math in the hope of returning to the academy in the fall.
That summer, the two brothers were once again on a train heading back to West Point when they happened to meet Clark Shaughnessy, who, at the time, was the head coach at Pittsburgh. Shaughnessy was the modern day architect of the T-Formation offense. (For more on Clark Shaughnessy and the T-Formation, see the Book Report article on The Wow Boys)
Shaughnessy told the boys about a player named Felix “Doc” Blanchard who was going to play for Army that season. He told them that Blanchard was going to be a great player. Years earlier, Shaughnessy had coached Blanchard’s father, who was a star fullback, while both were at Tulane.
Blanchard grew up in South Carolina. His father was a doctor and as a kid, Felix had the nickname of “Little Doc.” He played on the freshman team at North Carolina in 1942 and then joined the Army. He went to basic training and then was assigned to a chemical warfare unit in New Mexico. Blanchard’s father was not happy about his son’s military assignment and arranged for him to get an appointment to West Point. The academy arranged for Blanchard to spend a year at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania to prepare himself academically before entering West Point. He did not play football while at Lafayette.
Coach Blaik employed a two-quad system in 1944 similar to what Knute Rockne had used at Notre Dame during the days of The Four Horsemen. The first squad played the first and third quarters of the game while the second team, consisting of Blanchard and Davis, played the second and fourth quarters. Prior to 1941, players were required to play both offense and defense, but in 1941, free substitution was implemented as a result of so many college players being drafted into the military.
The pairing of Blanchard and Davis in the Army backfield turned out to be an unstoppable combination. Even though they only played two quarters in most games, they still played both ways on the field. Davis played halfback on offense and on defense, he played cornerback, which at the time was known as defensive halfback. Blanchard was a fullback on offense but he also was the punter, performed kickoffs, returned kicks and also played linebacker on defense.
In 1944, Army was undefeated and ranked # 1 in the nation and Navy was ranked # 2 when they met in the final game of the season. Army won the game 23-7 and was voted college football national champions. The game was listened to on short wave radio by troops serving all over the world. The win caused Army General Douglas MacArthur, who listened to the game from the Philippines in the middle of the night, to send the following telegram to Coach Blaik; “The greatest of all Army teams. We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success.”
In the 1944 Heisman voting, quarterback Les Horvath from Ohio State finished number one, but Glenn Davis came in second and Doc Blanchard was third.
It was in 1945 that New York Sun sportswriter Will Wedge began referring to the Army team as The Black Knights because of their uniform color. The name stuck and is still being used today. Prior to 1945, the team was simply referred to as The Cadets.
Army once again went undefeated in 1945 at 9-0. They defeated Navy in the final game 32-13 and won a second straight college football national championship. Again, Army was ranked # 1 and Navy #2 going into their final game. The 1945 game was also the first Army-Navy game to ever be televised.
Over the course of the 1945 season, Army scored 412 points while allowing just 46. Doc Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy, Glenn Davis was second and fullback Bob Fenimore from Oklahoma A&M was third in the voting.
The 1946 season would be one of the toughest for Army as World War II was now over and many star college athletes had returned to their respective teams. Many people felt that Army and Navy had had a distinct advantage during the latter war years with many teams being depleted in talent as many college players were drafted into the military. The service academies, however, had their pick of great athletes from around the country because players who attended Army and Navy were exempt from the draft and they were assured of avoiding the war until after they graduated.
Blanchard tore the ACL in his right knee in the 1946 season opener, but remarkably, he only missed two games. Many sports writers believed he was a shoe-in to win a second straight Heisman Trophy had the injury not occurred. This opened the door for Davis, who had been second in the Heisman voting for the past two years.
Army had a 7-0 record in 1946 when they took on Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in New York on November 9. Army was ranked # 1 and the Irish were ranked # 2 going into the game. It was billed as “The Game of the Century” as both teams were undefeated and had both explosive offenses. However, the game ended in a 0-0 tie.
Going into the final game of the 1946 season, Army was still ranked number 1 and undefeated at 8-0-1 while Navy was a disappointing 1-8. In the game, Army jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead, but Navy came back, scoring two touchdowns to close the gap to 21-18 in the fourth quarter. With a minute and a half remaining in the game, Navy had a first and goal at the Army three-yard line. Army stopped Navy on four straight plays to preserve the win and a third consecutive undefeated season.
While many polls around the country voted Army to a third consecutive national championship, the most important one, the Associated Press poll, inexplicably chose Notre Dame as the national champions with Army # 2.
From 1944-1946, Army posted a 27-0-1 record and the duo of Blanchard and Davis were never part of a losing game. After they graduated from the Academy in the spring of 1947, they were allowed to make a Hollywood movie called The Spirit of West Point in which they played themselves.
Blanchard went on to serve in the Air Force and was a fighter pilot in Vietnam, flying 84 combat missions. He retired in 1971 at the rank of Colonel. Blanchard died on April 9, 2009 at the age of 84 and is buried in the Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX.
Davis served in the Army through 1950. He then spent two seasons in the NFL playing for the Los Angeles Rams in 1950 and 1951. The Rams lost in the 1950 NFL title game to the Cleveland Browns but won the NFL title in 1951 in a rematch with the Browns. He suffered a knee injury during the 1952 pre-season, ending his playing career.
Davis was often photographed in the company of beautiful Hollywood actresses. He dated actress Elizabeth Taylor when she was just 16 as well as Ann Blyth and Debby Reynolds. He married actress Terry Moore in 1953. They had a son together, Ralph, but she died in 1955. In 1956, Davis married Yvonne Ameche, the widow of another former Heisman Trophy winner from 1954, Alan Ameche.
Davis died on March 9, 2005 at the age of 80. He is buried in the West Point Cemetery near his former Army head coach, Red Blaik, who died in 1989.
As an interesting note, the forward of the book was written by Pete Dawkins, who became the third Army football player from West Point to win the Heisman Trophy in 1958.