Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from The Advocate’s upcoming book, “LSU BY THE NUMBERS,” celebrating the best player (and other greats) to wear each number in Tigers football history. This week: No. 82, Wendell Davis.
When he left Shreveport’s Fair Park High School for LSU in 1984, Wendell Davis found playing in Tiger Stadium to be an intimidating and overwhelming experience.
“I was scared out of my mind,” Davis said. “I’m not going to lie. I was scared, excited and all of those things rolled up into one. (But) once you felt the love of the fans in that atmosphere, it was just electrifying. Every game after that walking into Tiger Stadium, it was not fear. It was more excitement. I loved putting on a show for our fans.”
After a freshman season in which he didn’t catch a pass, Davis indeed put on a show over his final three seasons at LSU, teaming up in 1986 and 1987 with quarterback Tommy Hodson to form one of the best pass-and-catch duos in program history.
And the fear and intimidation factor? Davis transferred that to the defensive backs who had to cover him.
There were a lot of unanswered questions surrounding LSU going into the 1986 season. Two of LSU’s all-time offensive greats — running back Dalton Hilliard and wide receiver Eric Martin — were gone, as was starting quarterback Jeff Wickersham. Into the void stepped freshman tailback Harvey Williams, Hodson, a redshirt freshman, and Davis, entering his junior season.
But offensively, LSU proved to be in good hands. Williams and backup Sammy Martin combined to rush for more than 1,200 yards. And Hodson-to-Davis, with a planned substitution role each week from backup quarterback Mickey Guidry, put their stamp on the LSU record book. Davis finished with 80 catches for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns — all single-season school records at the time — helping power the Tigers to a 9-3 record and their first SEC championship since 1970.
“It wasn’t until the end of the year when I noticed the records,” Davis said. “It was one of those things where it wasn’t a personal goal of mine. It just happened. I really had a great connection going and the offense fell into place for what I did. My goal was just to win the SEC, and that is what we did.”
Davis faced more double-teams his senior season, and his production slipped a bit to 72 catches for 993 yards and seven touchdowns. But that didn’t include his nine catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns in his final game, LSU’s 30-13 romp over South Carolina in the Gator Bowl to complete the Tigers’ first 10-win season since 1961.
“After my junior year, teams kind of game-planned against me a little bit,” Davis said. “I know we did a lot better job of spreading the ball around my senior year. We had some very good athletes and guys that could make plays at any given time. It was hard to stop us offensively.”
The following spring, Davis (born in 1966) was selected with the 27th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He played most of six seasons with 3,000 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns before his career was cut short by knee injuries.
To pre-order “LSU BY THE NUMBERS” and receive a $10 discount off the $39.95 cover price, please visit www.LSU.PictorialBook.com. The book will be published in November and ships Dec. 4, 2020.