Benjamin Earl Franklin Davidson, Jr. (June 14, 1940 – July 2, 2012) was an American football player, a defensive end best known for his play with the Oakland Raiders in the American Football League. Earlier in his career, he was with the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins of the National Football League.
1960 Washington Huskies yearbook
|No. 72, 75, 83|
|Born:||June 14, 1940|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died:||July 2, 2012 (aged 72)|
San Diego, California, U.S.
|Height:||6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)|
|Weight:||275 lb (125 kg)|
|High school:||Los Angeles (CA)|
East Los Angeles College (JC)
|NFL Draft:||1961 / Round: 4 / Pick: 46|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Davidson was the son of Avis (née Wheat) and Benjamin Earl Franklin, Senior. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, but did not play football in high school; because of his height (6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)), basketball and track were more to his liking. While attending junior college at East Los Angeles College, he was spotted by the football coach and asked to join the team. He was subsequently recruited to play at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1959, where he flourished as a member of consecutive Rose Bowl-winning teams under head coach Jim Owens and gained entry into professional football.
As a rookie, he played mostly special teams for the Packers in 1961, who beat the Giants 37–0 in the championship game, the first of five NFL titles for head coach Vince Lombardi. During training camp in 1962, Davidson was traded to the Washington Redskins for a fifth round draft choice. He played there in 1962 and 1963, until he was waived in September 1964 final cuts after not meeting the team's strict weight guidelines.
Davidson is best remembered his play with the American Football League Oakland Raiders. Al Davis signed him as a free agent shortly after his release from the Redskins and he thrived as a pass rusher under head coaches Davis, John Rauch, and John Madden. Davidson played in Oakland from 1964 through 1972, and was part of the league merger in 1970. He was an AFL All-Star in 1966, 1967, and 1968.
The Raiders won the AFL championship in 1967 and played in Super Bowl II, but were overmatched by the Green Bay Packers. Oakland advanced to the AFL title games the next two seasons but lost to the New York Jets in 1968 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 1969, the league's last game. A stretched Achilles tendon in 1972 kept him on the sidelines that entire season.
On November 1, 1970, the defending world champion Kansas City Chiefs led the Raiders 17–14 late in the fourth quarter, and a long run for a first-down by Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson apparently sealed victory for the Chiefs in the final minute when Dawson, as he lay on the ground, was speared by Davidson, who dove into Dawson with his helmet at full running speed, provoking Chiefs' receiver Otis Taylor to attack Davidson. After a bench-clearing brawl, offsetting penalties were called, nullifying the first down under the rules in effect at that time. The Chiefs were obliged to punt, and the Raiders tied the game on a George Blanda field goal with eight seconds to play. Davidson's play not only cost the Chiefs a win, but Oakland won the AFC West with a season record of 8–4–2, while Kansas City finished 7–5–2 and out of the playoffs. After the season, the NFL changed its rules regarding personal fouls, separating those called during a play from those called after it. In 1976, the NFL further modified its rules, explicitly calling out a late hit such as Davidson's as illegal.
Davidson's hit on Dawson was not an isolated occurrence; Winston Hill, a Jets player of the era, called Davidson "the No. 1 cheap-shot artist" in the league. A journalist for The New York Times wrote that Davidson "probably was responsible for more late hits than any other player" of his time, and was known for going after the opposing team's quarterback. Davidson cultivated a persona as a "villain" and embraced this reputation.
Three years out of football, Davidson signed with the Portland Storm in early September 1974, already midway through the World Football League's inaugural 1974 season. While with the Storm, he lived in his motor home that he drove up from California. A late season knee injury in early November ended his season and playing career.
Davidson appeared in a few films including The Black Six, M*A*S*H, and Conan the Barbarian. He portrayed Porter the Bouncer in Behind the Green Door in 1972 and a convict football player in Necessary Roughness in 1991. Davidson played himself in Miller Lite ads featuring John Madden and Rodney Dangerfield. He also appeared in the short lived 1976 show Ball Four as a minor-league baseball player named Rhino Rhinelander, the 1977 pilot for Lucan and the 1984 TV series Goldie and the Bears. Davidson also appeared in an episode of the 1970's TV series Happy Days as a lumberjack.
Following his rookie season with Green Bay, Davidson took his winner's check ($5,195) from the 1961 NFL title game and bought rental property in San Diego. He began 1961 with a Rose Bowl win on January 2 and ended it with an NFL championship on December 31, and was married in between.
Davidson and fellow Oakland Raider teammate Tom Keating were avid motorcycle riders and completed both a ride from California to the Panama Canal and a four-month, 14,000-mile (23,000 km) trip across the United States while with the Raiders.
- "Ben Davidson, defensive end, dies at 72". New York Times. Associated Press. July 3, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
- Dillman, Lisa (July 4, 2012). "Ben Davidson dies at 72; Oakland Raider, fixture in beer commercials". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
- Crowe, Jerry (July 25, 2015). "For Ben Davidson, the quintessential Raider, football was the ticket to a great life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
- "Family Tree Maker's Genealogy Site: Genealogy Report: Descendants of Benjamin (Frank) Franklin Davidson". Familytreemaker.genealogy.com. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- Weaver, Dan (April 23, 1992). "Davidson shows his Liter side". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1.
- Hendricks, Martin (October 11, 2011). "Davidson's brief stay leads to glory". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
- 1961 NFL Championship Game at NFL.Com
- Lea, Bud (August 21, 1962). "Davidson traded to Redskins". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
- "Barnes, five other cut by Redskins". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated. September 10, 1964. p. 30.
- "Davidson style belies his image". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. February 6, 1973. p. 15.
- KC Chiefs website Archived 2008-06-09 at the Wayback Machine
- DtchMastr (2011-02-07). ""Big" Ben Davidson - Oakland Raiders". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- 40 Years Ago: The NFL institues the "Davidson Rule"
- Raiders' Davidson Enjoyed Being Villain
- "Davidson signs Storm contract". Eugene Register Guard. Oregon. September 4, 1974. p. 1B.
- Cawood, Neil (September 7, 1974). "Big Ben, Roadrunner stir the Storm, 15-8". Eugene Register Guard. Oregon. p. 1B.
- "Storm will have to make it without Ben Davidson". Lewiston Evening Journal. Maine. November 9, 1974. p. 15.
- Crowe, Jerry (July 25, 2010). "For Ben Davidson, the quintessential Raider, football was the ticket to a great life". Los Angeles Times.