GRIDIRON: One-on-one with Troy Davis, illustrious former ISU running back


Troy Davis played for Iowa State from 1994-96. During his ISU career, Davis rushed for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, becoming the first collegiate player to do so. He was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy two times.

Alex Halsted

When many people think of Iowa State, the name Troy Davis still lingers. Davis played for Iowa State from 1994-96 and became not only one of the best Cyclones in program history, but one of the top collegiate running backs ever.

Davis was the first Division I player to rush for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons and was a Heisman Trophy finalist twice, finishing fifth as a sophomore and second as a junior before foregoing his senior season for the NFL.

The ISU Hall of Famer recently took some time with the Daily to reflect on his career.

When you were coming out of high school, you were a highly touted recruit. What was it about Iowa State?

The reason why I went there was because the recruiting that they had. My goal was I wanted to go to a school that hadn’t been known and make them known.

Do you feel like you did that?

I felt like I did it because there weren’t too many people that knew Iowa State until I went up there and had ESPN there almost everyday. We started getting more recruits there. Guys like Seneca Wallace came there, my brother Darren Davis.

They’ve won a bowl game and everything. I wish I could have went to a bowl game, but we couldn’t make it there. I think they’re known now.

You were the first collegiate player to rush for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons. What was it like to do that?

It’s something that was in the back of my mind. I didn’t know who it was going to be to do that, and I did it my sophomore and junior years. Getting the ball that many times, you have to get something out of it. My second year, I ran for 2,010 yards and my third year 2,185. It just goes to the offensive line. The offensive line did their job.

What do you remember about the atmosphere at then-Cyclone Stadium during your big seasons? Did it get a little crazier?

I can’t say yes; I can’t say no. The fans there, they loved Troy Davis. Whatever Troy did, they were behind me. We had fans up top keeping my yardage every game. Every time I looked up there, “I’m almost close to 1,000 yards.” We were five games in. Once we got over that, in my 10th game or whatever, I’m standing up there, “I’m close to 2,000 yards.” They kept me in touch with all my yardage.

What do you remember about the Heisman ceremonies? You went to two of them.

It was exciting. My junior year I came in second, so it was just exciting for me to get named to go there with the other top players there.

The second year you went to the Heisman, the last game you did a Heisman pose in the end zone. What do you remember about that?

It was against Kansas State. It was like fourth and goal and the whole offensive team came to the sideline. Somebody asked us who wanted the ball. I raised my hand and said: “Give me the ball.” I got the ball and I dove in. That was my reaction, saying: “Hey, I’m going for the Heisman, so let me go ahead and do the Heisman stance right now.”

When you got second in the Heisman that year, you were first in all the voting regions but the eastern one. What was it like to come that close?

I thought it was mine all the way. But Danny Wuerffel, he was on a winning team and he was going to the big bowl game. I think the Heisman is for the best player, not the best team, but I guess since he was going to the big bowl game they gave it to him.

I came up short. I’m not mad about it. As long as I got invited there, that made me happy there.

What was it like on campus?

That was like every day, “Oh my god, there goes Troy Davis.” “Can I get your autograph?” “Can I touch you?” “Can I hold your hand?” “Can you sign my shirt?” I got that like every day.

In 1996, you had 53 carries against the University of Northern Iowa. What do you remember about that game?

I didn’t know that I was going to get that many carries. Since my parents were there, coach kind of made my parents excited. By the time the game was over he said: “I don’t believe I gave you the ball 53 times.”

[My parents] drove up and that was the first college game that they ever watched.

The next week you had 41 carries for 378 yards against Missouri. What was it like being a workhorse like that?

My offensive line opened the holes for me, and the coaches saw it, so they just kept on feeding me the ball. I wasn’t tackled, so I was in top shape. They just kept on feeding me the ball.

Is there a certain game or moment that stands out as your best memory?

My greatest memory was my first time seeing snow there.

I had been in Miami for 19 years. I had never been out of town or anything like that, so when I got recruited and went up there, and for the first time saw snow, that made me excited because I was going to be playing in it.

A lot of people, when they think of Iowa State, think of you and Seneca Wallace and people like that. What does it mean to have that legacy?

It’s a dream come true because every athlete that I know who goes and plays football, they want to be the top name of that school. When they mention Iowa State, they mention Troy or Darren or Seneca Wallace. That puts a smile on my face.

How much have you stayed up with Iowa State since you went to the NFL and beyond?

They had my little brother Darren, so I was on and off. Since Darren left, I’ve been watching on TV, but not going up there for it.

Would you like to get back and see a game?

The coaching staff now, they’re not calling me or anything. I would love to come back up there and see a game.