Kenneth Davis was part of the Buffalo Bills' first free agent class in 1989 after spending the first three years of his career with the Green Bay Packers. Davis spent six years with the Bills as the primary backup to Thurman Thomas, acting as the spark plug to the potent offense. He played in 96 games for the Bills, starting two in the regular season, and compiled 2,460 rushing yards (at 4.4 yards per carry), 545 receiving yards, and a combined 27 touchdowns. He appeared in all four Super Bowls in the early '90s.
Davis, a TCU alum, is back at is alma mater this weekend, where the Horned Frogs are hosting the BYU Cougars. The running back is there as part of the Allstate Tailgate Tour and graciously offered to answer some questions for BuffaloRumblings.com.
You were one of the first free agents the Buffalo Bills ever signed. Why'd you decide to come to Buffalo?
As an athlete, you can feel the atmosphere, and when you walk into Rich Stadium you could feel the atmosphere. You could feel it in the locker room. When I stepped in the elevator to go up and meet Bill Polian, Bruce Smith was there and he said, "I remember you from the All-America team." Coming back down on the elevator, Jim Kelly was there and he told me, "Hey I've got a great place for you to live here." When I met those two guys, that sealed the deal right then and there. I had a great coach in Elijah Pitts and that made it even better. And I always wondered if they set that up for me. I always laugh about that.
What's your best memory as a member of the Bills?
Some of my greatest memories in Buffalo are seeing those fans. I enjoy the game. I love the game. Seeing those fans out there all bundled up on those snowy days in the cold, and they got the tailgating going, they got their grills going, and their beverages and the fires and here come the Miami Dolphins to Buffalo or the Denver Broncos in... I just think that the atmosphere of that entire city is just phenomenal. The fan base there is just phenomenal. A lot of fans in Buffalo know football. I think you can go a lot of places where people know football, but Buffalo fans truly know football and they are true, true Bills fans. They are not fair weather fans. Not at all.
Were the Super Bowls a good experience because you got there, or a bad experience because you lost?
They're probably some of the greatest experiences of my life outside of my kids. I think a lot of people don't truly realize what we accomplished until now, 15 years or 18 years later. I had a young man tell me, "Do you realize what it took for you all to go to four consecutive Super Bowls?" Coaches, players, in practice and in the locker room, all of us together. It's not something you see on a high school level. You don't see a college win four national championships in a row. You don't see that happen. It's incredible. It still amazes me to this day that not only did we have great coaches, but a great general manager in Bill Polian. I just think what Mr. Wilson did, and what they all had put together, and the city of Buffalo being the city of Buffalo and being who they were, I think that's what made it all come together.
I have to hear your thoughts on the Comeback game. With Thurman Thomas knocked out and Jim Kelly out, how did you guys win that game?
It was just one of those things. When I first came to Buffalo, our practices were like two hours and five minutes or so. We had gotten to the point where we were down to an hour and something, and we would run the same number of plays and the same amount of special teams. We had guys that were so proficient in what they were doing that it was one of the reasons we were able to come back and beat Houston. We kicked into a practice mode, but it was a game. Everybody's level just stepped up. We were playing around a five on a scale of ten, and we went to a ten or even a 12 and a level we had never even seen before, but was always in us.
Do you watch pro football now? What team do you root for?
Yeah, I still watch the game quite a bit now. I watch a lot at the beginning of the year and get back into it about halfway through the season and start working towards the playoffs. I'll watch whatever's on. Being able to watch all of them gives you an idea of where your team is that you're pulling for and who's going to be there in February.
What do you think about the state of the Bills right now?
I think right now they're struggling trying to keep some stability in the organization. That's hurt them quite a bit. They've gone through quite a few coaches and players and they have the bad situation at quarterback. It's stability, and I don't know if they have that family atmosphere. The Cowboys, the Dolphins, the Indianapolis Colts - they have a lot of players who have played for them still with the organization. I think you have to have somebody in the organization that can relate to them; not that they can't relate to the coaches. I just think sometimes you gotta have other players who have played at that level and been successful. A lot of guys are coming out now thinking about how much money or what kind of car they're gonna get, but the game's what's most important. You got fans up in the stands that have spent all this money to come out and watch the games. I think they've forgot about the people. Someone needs to teach them how to get in touch with the public and understand what the public is talking about. We did a lot of things in the public when we were up there in Buffalo, and I think that's what made all the difference. You have to have that superstar come back and kind of talk about a lot of things that go on. That builds family atmosphere, and I don't see that.
What are you up to now?
I'm an administrator at a catholic school in Dallas. I'm also a bit of the Allstate Tailgate Tour. They go around the country to all the Top 25 colleges to promote college football.
Speaking of which, TCU's doing really great this year, right?
Oh man, they are. And I'll be there this afternoon with the Allstate Tailgate Tour from 1-2:30 (Central Time), and I'll be taking a Q&A session over the radio and from the audience.
Have you ever met the Buffalo Bills' other famous TCU alum, Aaron Schobel?
I know while he was there and I had an opportunity to come back I never talked to him. This might be the first time when I go back with the Allstate Tailgate Tour. I know the Bills released him a few weeks ago and he's back in Fort Worth right now, so maybe I'll get an opportunity to see him this weekend.
Mr. Davis, you were suspended in 1985 for taking cash from boosters. With the recent Sports Illustrated story surrounding agents and college players, how do you think the NCAA and NFL should change the system?
I think it's something we need to take into consideration. We don't understand... these young men and young women. I'm talking about the whole gamut. When you play collegiate football or high school football and get a bad injury blowing out your knee or blowing out your back they say, "Well we gave you a good education." Yeah, they gave you a good education, but I have my knees and lower back for the rest of my life. I think it needs to get to a point where they have to be able to compensate these young men and these young women at the collegiate level when they have this type of injury. I had a friend of mine say to me say, "I love college ball and TCU, but the bad part about it all is I blew my knees out and I can't go out and play with my grandkids." We have our bodies all our lives. The collegiate level has your body for four or five years, and then they give you an education and push you out - whether you're a kid that makes it in the pros in football, golf, or tennis, they push you right out.
When you look at the National Football League and they say we shouldn't help these guys out... I grew up in a family of twelve. When my mom and dad bought us a pair of shoes we had two - one pair for you to wear during school time, and those other shoes were a pair of Sunday shoes. I think the NCAA needs to take a look at the program and say, "Yeah we understand this and we have all these bowl games." If they want to go to a playoff, it would be different, but they have all these bowl games that generate all this capital. Why are they not able to help these young men and young women a lot better than they are? I think it's a sad situation. It really truly is.
I know I was part of that situation, and I was one of those individuals who took money from boosters because I was one of 12 kids, 14 with my parents. What was I supposed to do? I needed clothes. I needed food. I wanted to go to the movies.
Let's be realistic. Let's truly sit down and look at this. Let's look at apples to apples, oranges to oranges, and look at what it truly is and go from there. That's a way of being able to do this and help out these young men. And not only will it do that, it will make the games and the sports better. That's all it's going to do is make it better.
You know, the sad part about it all is I remember as a child going to football clinics and camps and they were free. These people gave you meals, and now people can't afford it. You want to go to a camp now it's $2,500 or $3,000 to go to a camp. People cannot afford that. They may have an opportunity to go to the next level, but they've never seen this type of money.
I just think there's a better way for us to do this. We are in America, the greatest country there is in the world, and you tell me that we cannot solve the situation with the NCAA? C'mon.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Someday I'd love to come back to Buffalo and work and be part of the organization in some formal fashion. I wouldn't mind doing something in administration. I'd just love the opportunity to be back there. Having been a player, I think they need a lot of mentors. Sometimes they have other mentors, but a former player gives a different perspective. I would love to come back there and work in some type of capacity, even if it was stadium operations or whatever. I'd love to be back there. The game is so much faster and everything's changed so much with the Twitter and Facebook that they need to stop and concentrate on the game and the fun of it, and get away from a lot of technology. I don't think a lot of them are just going out and playing the game. They are studying the game beyond where they need to - that they're trying not to make mistakes.
Thanks to Mr. Davis and the Allstate Tailgate Tour for this opportunity. If you live in the Fort Worth area and would like a chance to ask your own question or get his autograph, Mr. Davis will be at TCU from 1-2:30 this afternoon.