LSU Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Davis
Prior to Wendell Davis beginning his career at LSU, State-Times writer George Morris introduced the gaping hole in the Tiger's offense that Davis needed to fill after the graduation of former LSU standout Eric Martin: four years, 152 catches, 2,542 yards, 14 touchdowns and one Southeastern Conference record.
Morris described the outgoing Martin's cleated shoes as not just big, but large enough to be sold as condominiums.
When Davis left following his senior season in 1987 he rewrote LSU's receiving record books to the tune of 183 catches, 2708 yards and 19 touchdowns. His cleated shoes weren't just big, but large enough to be sold as mansions.
"I had no idea he would be this good when I first saw him," wide-receiver coach Jerry Sullivan said in an Associated Press Article headlined, 'No defenses can hold him,' written midway through the 1987 season. "I saw the great cutting ability he had, but the rest of it he's developed through hard work."
After 15 seasons without an SEC Title, the 1986 Tigers ended the drought with an SEC Championship by relying on a relatively unproven wide receiver who had caught only 31 passes in his first two seasons and a rangy redshirt freshman quarterback.
To the shock of the entire country, Davis and quarterback Tommy Hodson emerged as arguably the best receiver-quarterback duo in LSU history while revolutionizing SEC football during their two seasons together.
"Things were beginning to turn around at LSU," Davis said, "It was a time that I think all the players really saw that we had a lot of talent and if we just brought it together we could win games for LSU."
Davis and Hodson went on to set numerous school records in 1986 while unexpectedly replacing a graduated starting backfield that had amassed 16,000 yards in the four previous seasons.
During the magical 1986 season, Davis broke numerous single-season records: 80 catches, 1244 receptions, 11 touchdown receptions and 14 catches in one game against Ole Miss.
"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."
Following Davis's spectacular junior season performance, the All-American's statistics began to decline because of the increased attention and double-teams. However, that did not stop him from being named 1987 SEC Most Valuable Player of the Year after totaling 72 receptions, 993 yards and seven touchdowns.
"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."
Despite all of the numerical accomplishments and the culture changing seasons, Davis remains humble and values the time with his teammates the most.
"What really sticks in my mind was the tradition for us where we started holding hands in the huddle," Davis recounts. "That is something that I will never forget. It didn't matter if we were down two touchdowns or up one touchdown. We were coming together. If we were down, we were coming back to win the game. It was a great feeling to have to see all the guys have their hands together, come together as a team and march the ball down the field."
The Tigers went 28-6-2 in Davis' last three seasons with appearances in the Liberty, Sugar and Gator Bowls. Davis fondly remembers the transition from his first game in Tiger Stadium.
"I have all kinds of memories walking through the tunnels of Tiger Stadium," Davis said." I was scared out of my mind. I'm not going to lie. It was something that was bigger than me. I wasn't sure how to handle it, but it was unbelievable. I was scared, excited and all of those things rolled up into one. 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."
Davis was selected 27th overall in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He went to play for six seasons, seeing action in 81 games with 207 catches for 3,000 yards and 14 touchdowns before injuries cut short his career.
After a wonderful career at LSU and a successful professional career, Davis will use his LSU Hall of Fame induction on Sept. 9 to reflect on the trials and tribulations of his football days.
"I know I wouldn't be receiving this honor if it wasn't for my teammates and the sacrifices that they made as well," Davis said. "I am very honored and very humbled of the fact that I am joining some of the great athletes, coaches and athletic directors in LSU history."