*A legendary career playing college football and baseball for the USC Trojans, awards for his accomplishments on the field, multiple appearances on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a spot on the College Football Hall of Fame. With everything he’s done, it would be natural to assume Anthony Davis would have enough material to for a readable book.
Add a period of financial uncertainty amid the current economy, a split from his daughter’s mother and health problems over the years and the ingredients for a bestseller are firmly in place. Not to mention memorable appearances while playing as a Trojan against Notre Dame (scoring 11 touchdowns in three games). So would anyone be interested in reading about a former college and pro athlete who’s back on his feet after numerous ups and downs?
Apparently not, in the eyes of Davis himself.
“I’ve always said ‘Who’s interested in my story?” the Texas native told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “The reason why I say that about me is because every time Notre Dame comes around and everybody wants to know where Anthony Davis is. Everybody wants to talk about Notre Dame based on what I did against Notre Dame. And I felt ‘Well they hear about me every time and that’s old news.’
“They always want to know what you think about the USC football game and they run all my games on ESPN Classic,” Davis continued. “Every year they try to find me … so I figured from that why does everybody want to hear my story? It’s more to it than just the Notre Dame game.”
Davis’ past, present and future take center stage in the pages of his new book, “If My Nikes Could Talk.” According to the athlete, the title of the 205-page tome served a dual purpose.
“That was one of the things. I thought it was a good tie-in with Nike since I was the first Nike football player to wear their shoe collegiately and professionally. And I was historically tied to them in the beginning,” Davis stated. “I was approached by a gentleman by the name Nelson Farris who’s with Nike and that’s where that all came about … but now as you see the history of Nike, that’s when we thought it would be a great marketing situation just to have Nike’s title on there.”
A Consensus All-American, Davis is best known for his work as a USC Trojan. His kick-off return average of 42.5 yards in 1974 yielded an NCAA record for the highest kickoff return average for any single season leader ever. Other accomplishments included being the first Pacific-8 Conference player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons as well as being a two-time team All Pac-8 Conference selection and two-time recipient of the W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy.
To add to his status at USC, Davis enjoyed a successful run in baseball that resulted in two College World Series championship titles in 1973 and 1974. The 57-year-old is the only player in USC history to start for a national champion football team and a national champion baseball team as well as the first Nike athlete to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Despite good fortune in football and baseball, Davis admits he would have chosen baseball (“my first love”) rather than football to build his sports legacy on. The determining factor in going with the pigskin, however, was money.
“The money was so great in football, I couldn’t turn it down. So that’s what happened,” said the sports veteran, who, looking back admitted, “I should’ve kept my goal. If I had to do it all over, I’d have played one … that’s my only regret professionally. But it is what it is. It’s water under the bridge, but if you look at it overall, what I accomplished, I was one of the best athletes on the planet. To be a two time All American, two sports and national titles, no one can say that. I’m the only one that can say that. I’m the only one in history that has ever done that.”
With incredible highs came incredible lows after Davis’ final days as a pro football player for the NFL’s New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Southern California Sun with the World Football League and the Toronto Argonauts from the World Football League. Despite building a fortune with the money he made, Davis found himself a victim of financial difficulty in the late ’80s, a development he blamed on no one but himself.
“I was a top pick, I had made great money. I had two great homes, Rolls Royces. I had a collection of cars. What started my problems with the ’80s were tax problems. I just didn’t manage my money right and didn’t have good people around me. That’s really what happened,” the sports star confessed, adding that he was left “vulnerable” from not having someone around to help him. “At the end of the day, that’s still my fault for not having the proper people around. That’s one of the cases a lot of athletes are in today. I’m not saying I’m an ignorant person or a stupid guy. I just trusted certain people and that’s what happened.”
Davis’ financial problems eventually caused him to find work as a security guard. The athlete’s time as a security guard proved to be plus for him rather than a liability.
“I got a lot of respect from people because a lot of people thought I wouldn’t lower myself to do that, but you out here doing what you have to do. I said ‘That’s how I was raised and that’s what I am gonna do. If this is what I have to do, so be it,” Davis mentioned. “That was a learning experience for me but also a humbling experience, But also it was a thing where people realize ‘Here’s Anthony Davis out here working like this. If he can do that, well I don’t feel so bad.’ What it did, it just told them that ‘Hey. He’s a human being just like us. He’s just like us. Things get tough, you adjust.'”
Financial issues weren’t the only obstacle for Davis. Health problems such as sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure and an enlarged liver became a cause for concern as well as weight gained from what he attributed to the medications he took during his football days as well as stress over the years.
“It shut my metabolism down where I couldn’t even metabolize my food. I just couldn’t digest my food … It would take me two days to digest my food. And with that if you’re not metabolizing and burning your food up, according to the doctors, you could blow right up. And even working out, I still gained the weight.”
Davis’ weight gain was so severe that doctors urged him to have gastric bypass surgery in 2005 to avoid more fatal results. Ironically, that was the same year the athlete was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
“I said ‘Well that’s better than not being here.’ And then it was on and I had the procedure. It was done live on the Internet,” Davis shared. “I thought it was a little controversial but I wanted the public to know what can happen if you don’t do something about your weight, your obesity. And I had this procedure done and now that I’m 120 pounds lighter, I look like I did when I played in the NFL.”
Now that Davis is back and weighing between 195 and 200 pounds, the future appears to be wide open. Along with promoting “If My Nikes Could Talk,” the sportsman joins R&B legend Smokey Robinson as spokesmen for Cira Light.
Nike has also continued it’s relationship with Davis with a Nike store outlets tour in July and a licensing deal that allows the shoemaker to sell the player’s throwback jerseys from his historic 1974 game with Notre Dame online. Davis, who has been approached by a possible reality show and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” is currently working with a music group and serving as a partner for Kojima Development. The company is currently working to develop a 153-house subdivision along with a mixed-use project in Chinchilla Valley, CA.
With more than his share of trials and tribulations, Davis is grateful for having another chance to use his notoriety to motivate others as well as himself to succeed.
“It’s still an honor that people still recognize the fact that I was a two-sport athlete and could’ve played both sports professionally. That’s an honor to me,” the sports legend said. “I’m comin’ out of the hole and I look at my life like I’m in the 4th quarter. I based my whole life on a football game. And I’m in my 4th quarter and this is gonna be my best quarter. [laughs] That’s how I’m lookin’ at it … when you get knocked down on the football field, every time you get up you gotta get stronger. And that’s what I do. That’s how I live. I see the end of the tunnel. That’s my philosophy. I tell people ‘Just think about it. Every time you get knocked down, you’re not supposed to be quicker. You’re supposed to be stronger.”
Anthony Davis’ “If My Nikes Could Talk” is available now in bookstores.