Even more than 1,000 miles away from the place he created a name for himself, Troy Davis has often heard the question: [You’re a] 2,000-yard back, people would tell him, How can’t you be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
That question will now cease to exist.
Twenty years after his legendary Iowa State career came to a close, Davis has received the call for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
“It means a lot,” Davis said Friday. “It’s something that too many people didn’t do at Iowa State and I’m one of those players that did something amazing that nobody ever did, and when they think about Iowa State they’re going to think about Troy Davis.”
Who would have ever imagined?
When Dan McCarney arrived in 1994 to overtake a winless Iowa State football team, Davis was coming off a freshman campaign in which he hardly played and rushed for only 187 yards on 35 carries. He had one foot out the door before McCarney ever stepped foot in Ames and was ready to leave.
Like he did with every player, McCarney met Davis in his office.
“He came in and really the first thing we talked about was that Troy wanted to transfer,” McCarney said. “I couldn’t blame him, I wasn’t mad at him. They were winless, he didn’t play much, things weren’t going good.”
McCarney only asked for a chance. He told Davis that his offense would be focused on the run, that the Cyclones would run upward of 30 times a game. Davis smiled. He would give McCarney a shot.
When the first day of spring ball rolled around a few months later, Iowa State had encountered freezing rain and sleet. What the hell am I getting myself into? McCarney wondered. Then he saw Davis on the field.
“I’m seeing this Troy and [thinking], ‘This guy is tough. He is tough,’” McCarney said of that first practice. “Little did we know at the time he was going to be a two-time Heisman finalist and do something that had never been done before in the history of college football.”
The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Davis burst onto the scene in 1995 as a sophomore. He carried the ball more than 30 times per game and became the first sophomore in major college football history to run for 1,000 yards in five games. By the end of that season, Davis had become the first sophomore, and only the fifth player in NCAA history, to rush for more than 2,000 yards (2,010) in a single season.
After finishing fifth at the Heisman Trophy ceremony, Davis continued his trek toward history in 1996. In the third game that season, he had a school-record 53 carries. The next week he rushed for a school-record 378 yards, at the time the third-best single-game mark in NCAA history.
Davis, who finished runner-up in the Heisman voting in 1996, ended that junior campaign with 2,185 yards, becoming the first player in NCAA history to twice rush for 2,000 yards in a season. The big bruiser still remains, two decades later, the only player in NCAA history to accomplish that feat.
“This was not a whole bunch of garbage yards when games got out of hand,” McCarney said. “He was doing it in the first quarter and he was doing it in the fourth quarter. He was doing it no matter who he played. I’ve never seen so many defenses crowd so many guys to the line of scrimmage trying to stop Troy Davis and they still couldn’t stop him.”
After falling short of the Heisman, Davis will no longer wonder about his dreams to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
“I’m blessed because this is what I played football for, to be in the Hall of Fame one day. The day came true,” Davis said. “The Heisman, hey, I was up for it twice and came up short, but the Hall of Fame, I got it.”
He will no longer need to answer those questions, joining former Iowa Stater Ed Bock (1936-38) as only the second player in program history to be enshrined.
As for that other question: Where would Davis be without McCarney? That is one that will never have a true answer and yet one fans fortunately never found out.
“If it wasn’t for Coach Dan McCarney, you never know where I’d be at right now,” Davis said. “Dan McCarney stuck with me. He told me what he was going to do and that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m a Hall of Famer now.”