The legacy of local sports hero Glenn Davis lives on.
Friday nights in September and October, when fans entered the stadium at Bonita High School to support their Bearcats, they saw something new. In the middle of September, the final touches were being put on a newly installed artificial turf. The $1.2 million project was financed and developed by the city of La Verne and the local school district. This improved field takes little maintenance and allows year-round use for community sporting events. Fittingly, the field pays a fresh tribute to the man whose name it bears, Glenn Davis.
While a student at Bonita High school, Glenn Davis scored 464 points in three varsity seasons, including 236 in his senior season of 1942. Bonita went undefeated (11-0) and won the CIF-Southern Section Small Schools title. Davis scored 36 touchdowns that year, finishing his prep career with 70 touchdowns—both CIF records at the time.
A true renaissance athlete, Davis also excelled in baseball and track. Rancho Cucamonga resident Stanford Michael played football and track with Davis in 1941 and 1942. He recalled a time when Davis set a track record. “I got mad at him once. The school record for the 50-yard dash was 6 seconds; I bettered the record and ran it in 5.8. I held the record for about 10 minutes, and then Glenn ran it in 5.5.”
Michael played center on the football team and remembers an unusual play that Davis made. “It didn’t happen very often because most of the time nobody could touch him, but one game he got his bell rung. During the next play, he got the ball and didn’t know what to do with it; he just stood there holding it for about five seconds. When he finally came to, he took off for a 50-yard touchdown. I guess he had a good offensive line. It was a great team,” says Michael.
Davis knew that it was a team sport and never wanted all the glory for himself.
“He was a quiet guy,” says Michael. “He got a lot of glory, but didn’t flaunt it at all. He wished they wouldn’t talk him up so much,” says Michael. Michael wrote for the school paper and remembers a time when he was interviewing Davis for an article. “Glenn wanted me to make sure that I talked about the whole team and not just him. He was a very humble person.”
After high school, Davis went on to West Point Academy where he was perhaps the greatest all-around athlete in West Point history. He was a star centerfielder on the baseball team, an outstanding sprinter, and he played basketball. Not surprisingly, Davis posted the highest score that had ever been attained on the academy’s physical proficiency test.
While at West Point he also played a little football. He was the “Mr. Outside” of the famed Davis-Blanchard duo. Glenn scored 59 touchdowns in his career and gained an amazing 4,129 yards from rushing and passing for the Black Knights. He holds the major college record for most yards gained per play in one season with 11.7, and averaged 58 minutes a game against a tough schedule. No major collegian has ever approached his remarkable career average of almost one touchdown every nine plays.
The Army was the next step for Davis, who served in Korea until 1950. He would resign his commission to play professional football for the Los Angeles Rams, and play on two championship teams. Davis’ professional career was cut short though, due to injuries. After his time in the National Football League, Davis built a career in promotions and public relations with the Los Angeles Times.
Through all of his accomplishments and glory, Glenn Davis never forgot his origins. It was about 10 years ago that Bonita High School got a phone call from Glenn saying that he wanted to donate his Heisman Trophy to the place he began his illustrious career in sports.
“Nobody knew that he was going to give the Heisman to the school, and Glenn specifically asked for no cameras or no media coverage,” said Eric Podley, head football coach and athletic director at Bonita High School. Davis had a deep appreciation for the school that gave him his start. “Here is a guy who went far beyond Bonita High School, but never lost track of his roots. Too often, people forget where they came from, but he obviously didn’t,” said Podley. Davis was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1961. Glenn Davis died in March 2005.
Coach Podley brings Davis’ legacy to his players each year by teaching them the distinguished history of Bonita football. The school is one of only two high schools in the nation that has a Heisman trophy on its campus. Davis will not only be remembered for his incredible athletic success, but for his generosity that will touch the lives of Bonita High School students forever.