History: “Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside”

9 Jan

Together they were the 1940’s version of the dynamic duo.  Individually they each earned a Heisman Trophy.  One in 1945; the other in 1946.  In their three years together at West Point, the Cadets didn’t lose a game, going 27-0-1, and winning back-to-back national championships.  One was a powerful, bulldozing fullback; the other, a fleet-footed and ankle-breaking halfback. To their teammates and coaches they were simply Felix “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis. But to admiring football fans everywhere, they were better known as Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside.

Glenn Davis (L) and "Doc" Blanchard (R)

Their legend begins in high school where both were stellar athletes in a variety of sports.  Davis was a 13-letter sport star at Bonita High School in La Verne, California, while Doc starred at St. Stanislaus Prep in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  Each arrived at West Point by way of happenstance.

Davis was recruited, given what recruiting was in the 40’s due to the war. But not until Head Coach Red Blaik learned of the multi-sport star from a note sent to him by a Dartmouth professor of dramatics. The note said, in part, “They say this kid is the fastest halfback ever seen out [in California]…I thought you might be interested in knowing about this boy.  His name is Glenn Davis.” 

Coach Blaik teaching the Single Wing

Blaik took an interest.  So did Davis and he did not disappoint.  The 5-9, 170 pound halfback with world-class speed became an instant sensation in 1943, ranking seventh in the nation in total offense as a plebe (freshman) and leading Army to a 7-2-1 record.  His prowess on the football field, however, did not prevent his dismissal from the academy in December of that year for failing mathematics.  Only after months of remedial work was he readmitted.

Felix “Doc” Blanchard took a circuitous route to West Point, earning an appointment in 1943 after having enlisted in the Army.  This event was preceeded by a year of freshman ball at North Carolina where, according to the team trainer’s, he knocked out “…two would-be tacklers on the same play.”

Imbued with a love for the game by a father who played college ball as well, Doc emerged as a rising star in Army’s 59-0 drubbing of mighty Notre Dame in 1944; a game in which it was noted in the New York Times that he was “…even more poisonous on the defense…” where he lined up as a linebacker. 

More telling of his impact on he game, however, was the telegram that Notre Dame Coach Ed McKeever wired back to South Bend that day: “Have just seen Superman in the flesh. He wears number 35 and goes by the name of Blanchard.”

Blanchard (35) about to shake a defender.

The thing about Blanchard, though, was his surprising speed for a 6 foot, 208 pound fullback. He could cover a 100 yards in 10 seconds.  Davis, meanwhile, clocked a 9.7 100 and had what was described as a “fifth gear’ in the open field.  In their first season together, Army went 9-0. 

The following year, 1945, the Cadets replicated their winning ways and Blanchard was awarded the Heisman.  He was the first junior to ever win the coveted trophy.  The runner-up was Davis who had also finished second the year before, in ‘44. 

Both years Army won the national championship.  Finally, in 1946, the elusive Davis won that which had eluded him as the Cadets finished 9-0-1 and split the national championship with Notre Dame, the team who had tied them, 0-0, in a memorable clash of titans.

For their careers, Davis scored 59 touchdowns and gained 4,129 yards either rushing or receiving.  His record for most yards gained per play — an average of 11.5 yards per carry in 1945 — still stands.  Doc finished his career with 38 touchdowns and 1,666 yards. 

Both played defense as well: Davis as a safety and Doc as a linebacker.  Together they combined for 97 touchdowns, the most scored by teammates in a career, until 2006, when the record was eclipsed by Reggie Bush and Lendale White of the USC Trojans with 99. 

Davis went on to play pro ball after a short tour with the Infantry and was elected a Pro Bowler, but a knee injury while filming the movie, ”The Spirit of West Point, in which Davis and Blanchard played  themselves, forced him to retire.  He became a promotional executive for The Los Angeles Times.

Blanchard also had a chance to play in the NFL but chose instead to become a jet pilot in the Air Force and flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam.  He retired as a Colonel.  Both have passed on, but not from memory or from college football lore in which they will always be remembered alongside the greatest players of all time as Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside.

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