Kenneth Davis was a terrific backup running back during the Super Bowl years, the ideal complement to Thurman Thomas. People remember Thomas leading the NFL in combined yards four years in a row. It's amazing that his backup could be so productive. Davis rushed for 624 yards in 1991, then 613 in 1992. He scored 20 regular-season touchdowns in the four Super Bowl years. He had three TDs in the 51-3 rout of the Raiders in the AFC title game the week before Super Bowl XXV.
Davis, who finished his career with the Bills after the 1994 season, went on to be a coach and teacher in his native Texas. For the last seven years, he has been the athletic director at Bishop Dunne, a co-ed Catholic school with 682 students in Dallas. Davis coached the football team until three years ago. He won one district championship at Bishop Dunne.
He misses coaching. He misses being a Bill even more. Davis loved being a Bill. He came here from the Packers in 1989. Davis re-signed with the Bills when he became a free agent before the 1993 season. He had no interest in testing the waters, even though he might have commanded a much higher salary on the open market.
"We were family, man. I'm telling you," said Davis, who was one of 12 children. "It was a special group. You find out you want to be part of something. You could just feel it. When I was in Buffalo, it was in the air. It was just a great opportunity for me. I never knew I could play with so many great athletes. Look how many of them are in the Hall of Fame."
Davis, speaking from his office in Dallas, began mentioning his teammates by name. Jim Kelly, bringing everyone together. Bruce Smith, with "an ego as big as the world", but a gentle giant when you got to know him. Thurman Thomas, the volatile team cutup. Steve Tasker, such a dynamic talent.
"To put those kind of athletes together, and all those personalities. Ooh!" he said with a chuckle. "Coach Levy, I don't know how he did it. Maybe he should have his own TV show, like Dr. Oz."
I told Kenny he seemed emotional just talking about it.
"It is emotional," he said. "I never had a bad day in Buffalo. I don't care if it was practice, training camp at the college, Rich Stadium or on the road. I never had a bad day. I was excited to come to work. I was up early every day. I ... loved ... coming ... to work. It didn't matter if it was summertime or the middle of the year. It was because of the cohesiveness of the organization, the attitude. I'm talking even the people who cleaned up for us, the people who fed us lunch, the ones who cleaned up the stadium."
Davis said he never felt much separation between the team and the fans in Buffalo. He felt a kinship between a blue-collar team and a blue-collar community. He remembers how it felt on a cold Sunday on game day, seeing the smoke coming out of tailpipes in the cars, the smell of barbecue as he walked down the tunnel. He seemed ready to run out and hit someone as he spoke. By the time he was done, I was ready to run out the tunnel with him.
"To walk out there and see those fans with their beer helmets on, their wool caps, drinking their beer and the smiles on their faces. It made work better for them when we won. It was exciting to walk out and see them up there. You'd see the team on the other sideline and want to kick their butts. There was no feeling quite like it. Man, Buffalo is just a wonderful place."