Bob Davis' final game at the University of Virginia presented him with a more than difficult challenge if he hoped to play in the NFL. The challenge was accepted and eventually won.
"The last play of my last college game, I was hit and my knee was totally crushed," Davis said. "I had to have four or five different surgeries on it. My game was never the same. I was more of a very good football player than a great quarterback."
The ACC Player of the Year as a senior, despite the injury Davis was chosen by Houston in the second round with the 1967 NFL Draft. And after three seasons with the Oilers, the Neptune, New Jersey, native headed towards home and signed as a free agent with the Jets in 1970.
Placed on the taxi squad, Davis developed relationships with fellow quarterbacks Joe Namath and Al Woodall.
"I got along great with them," Davis said. "Al went to Duke, so he was an ACC guy. Namath was a good guy. He was friendly. He'd encourage you and would make some suggestions and what have you. He was just a good guy. There's nothing bad you can say about him. He was always helpful and always positive."
While Davis would see action in only one game, that doesn't mean he was idle.
"My first year with them, I hadn't played in a while. So, what I would do, I played with a (semi-pro) team called the Jersey Jays. We played at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City," Davis said. "They had their games on Thursday nights, and I would go over there and play after I practiced with the Jets. I played like seven games for them and that really helped me a lot."
Especially the following season.
"Not fortunately for Namath, but fortunately for me, he got hurt in 1971," Davis said. "Al Woodall played a lot and then he had some problems. And I wound up starting some games."
Davis made his first start five games into the season against the Buffalo Bills at Shea Stadium. Throwing touchdown passes to Rich Caster and John Riggins, he led the Jets to their second win, 28-17.
Making seven starts, Davis finished the season passing for 624 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His confidence grew with each game.
"I felt the Jets offensive system was so superior to what I had when I played with the Houston Oilers. They were like in the dark ages," Davis said. "For instance, if I'm lined up in a split right coverage pro set and have a drop-back pass call, with the Oilers, if I didn't tell that left halfback to stay in and block, I got killed. But with the Jets, if the left halfback was supposed to go out on a little swing pattern and saw the outside linebacker coming, he'd automatically pick him up."
Fatality avoided, Davis was with the Jets for three seasons before playing with the New Orleans Saints in 1973, and in the World Football League for two years. His most memorable moments while playing for New York occurred at Shea Stadium.
"It was hard playing at Shea because when you were at the open end of the stadium, there was no cover, so it was extremely windy. And then when you got into the closed end of the stadium, which was down by home plate, they had swirling winds," Davis said.
"It's hard to explain to people how bad they were. You'd look at the flag and it was blowing one way, but down on the field it was blowing exactly the opposite. So, it was very, very difficult playing on that field.
"And I held for a soccer(-style) kicker named Bobby Howfield. When you went down to the closed end of the field, you were playing on the dirt infield. And when it was cold, that stuff froze and it was extremely difficult."
Now retired, Davis and his wife, Kit, make their home in Fort Myers, Florida. They have a daughter, Stefani, who is a mortgage broker; a son, Rob, who is a chiropractor; and three grandchildren.
"I was in the banking business for over 35 years and wound up as a president of (Rumson-Fair Haven Bank) in New Jersey. I did that for about 12 years. It was an extremely small bank, and I grew it to get to 10 or 12 branches and then they were basically bought out," Davis said.
"Five years ago, I kind of had to retire because that's what they wanted me to do, I was 70 years old. So, then I did some consulting for banks and referring business to banks in New Jersey.
"I enjoyed the people I was involved with and putting together a loan deal for people that needed it. Some people didn't know quite how to put their finances together to straighten things out. I always made sure it was going to be a good loan and always made sure we had the proper collateral. All the time I was there, we never had a bad loan."