Tom Davies (American football)

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Tom Davies
Tom Davies football.JPG
Davies in 1921
Biographical details
Born(1896-10-14)October 14, 1896
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DiedFebruary 29, 1972(1972-02-29) (aged 75)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1922Penn (assistant)
1926–1934Rochester (NY)
1935Carnegie Tech (freshmen)
1936Kiski Prep (PA)
1937–1939St. Thomas/Scranton
1941–1947Western Reserve
Head coaching record
Overall96–52–11 (college)
Accomplishments and honors
All-American, 1918
All-American, 1920
All-American, 1921
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1970 (profile)

Thomas J. Davies (October 14, 1896 – February 29, 1972) was an American football player and coach. He played as a halfback at the University of Pittsburgh and was a consensus All-American in 1918 and 1920. After retiring as a player, Davies worked as a football coach for the next 26 years, including stints at the University of Pennsylvania, Geneva College, Allegheny College, the University of Rochester, the Carnegie Institute of Technology, the University of Scranton, and Western Reserve University. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1970.

Playing career[edit]

Davies was a native of Gas City, Indiana. He moved to Washington, Pennsylvania when he was 11 years old.[1] Davies played high school football at Aliquippa High School in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, and at Kiski Preparatory School in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania. Davies was working in a Washington factory when he got the chance to play football at Kiski. A friend refused to accept a football scholarship there unless Davies went along.[1]

Davies enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh where he played four seasons (1918–1921) of football under coach Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner. Davies played in 31 games for the Pittsburgh Panthers and averaged 150 yards per game over his four-year career.[2] He was selected as a first-team All-American in his freshman season of 1918 and again as a junior in 1920. As a freshman in 1918, Davies weighed only 142 pounds. In his first carry for Pitt, he ran for 13 yards against Washington & Jefferson—then a national power. Three plays later, he ran for 38 yards, "setting the pace for a stellar playing career."[1]

Pitt's Tommy Davies runs against undefeated and unscored upon Georgia Tech in a 1918 game at Forbes Field. Pitt won the game 32–0 and is considered by many to be that season's national champion.

Davies helped Pitt to an undefeated season and a national championship in 1918,[3] as he led the team in rushing, passing and receiving.[4] He led Pitt in all-purpose yards all four years that he played.[4] In a 1918 game against Georgia Tech, the freshman Davies accounted for five touchdowns—running 50 yards for a touchdown, returning two punts for touchdowns (a 60-yard and a 50-yard return), and passing for two more touchdowns.[2] After watching Davies run back a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in 1918, one writer noted:

"When Brother Tom Davies caught the kickoff on the ten-yard line at Franklin Field in Philadelphia one Saturday in November, we saw the prettiest piece of open field work not off at an angle, Tommie ran the length since the days of Jim Thorpe. On a bee line of the gridiron, and in so doing he personally took care of seven men! Then just for fun he added two more. The papers said, ‘Tom Davies Beats Penn.’ It has been the same against Syracuse, Lafayette and Georgia Tech. And now Pitt is counting on another All-American."[5]

As a junior in 1920, Davies led Pitt to another big win over the University of Pennsylvania. In what some called Davies’ finest game, he threw a touchdown pass, ran 80 yards for a touchdown, returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown.[2][4] Also in 1920, he led Pitt to a 35–0 win over Syracuse, as he rushed for 255 yards and scored 16 points in only three quarters of play.[2] In December 1920, Davies was elected by his teammates to be captain of Pitt's 1921 football team.[6] Davies was selected as team captain at a team banquet at which the entire team gave Davies “a thunderous cheer.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Davies was so affected by the demonstration that he stammered only a few words of appreciation and left the hall saying, “I’m going to phone my mother and tell her all about it.”[7]

Davies continues to rank among Pitt's all-time leaders in scoring with 181 points and all-purpose yards with 3,931 yards.[4] He was survived by his wife and two daughters.[1]

Coaching career[edit]

After graduating from Pitt, Davies began a long career as a college football coach. His first coaching position was as an assistant to the legendary John Heisman at the University of Pennsylvania in 1922.[8] At the time of his hiring at Penn, The New York Times noted: "Tom Davies, former Pitt captain and all-American halfback, makes his debut as a Penn coach. The versatile Davies, who raised havoc with a number of Penn elevens in recent years, will instruct in forward passing, punting and straight arming, and will also help Tom McNamara with the scrubs."[9]

Davies received his first head coaching job in 1923 when he was hired as the head football coach for the Geneva College Golden Tornadoes located in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.[8] He spent only one season at Geneva, compiling a record of 6–2–1.[10] In 1924, he was hired by Allegheny College where he remained for two seasons. In 1926, Davies was hired as the head football coach at the University of Rochester, where he spent nine years, coaching until 1934. After leaving Rochester, he spent one season as a coach at Carnegie Tech and another at Kiski Prep School.[8]

In 1937, Davies took over as head football coach at St. Thomas College.[11] In his first season, he led the Tomcats to a 6–1–1 record. Prior to the start of the 1938 season, St. Thomas College changed its name to the University of Scranton. Davies's 1938 team finished with a record of 7–2. The team improved in 1939 and completed an undefeated 7–0–2 season. Davies resigned as Scranton's coach in March 1940 with a three-year record of 20–3–3.

After leaving Scranton, Davies went into the insurance business in the Cleveland area.[8]

Although Davies insisted at the time of his resignation at Scranton that he was done with coaching, he was hired in March 1941 to take over as the head football coach for the Western Reserve University Red Cats.[8] Davies served seven years as head coach at Western Reserve, although there was no team from 1943 to 1945 due to World War II, but was discharged in October 1947 by the University Board of Athletics. The dismissal came 24 hours after members of the team demanded that they finish the year under another coach.[12]

Later years[edit]

After permanently retiring from football in 1947, Davies returned to the insurance business in the Pittsburgh area.[1]

Davies was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1966 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970.[2][3] He died of a heart attack in February 1972 at age 75.[13] He died at his home in Pittsburgh's Highland Park district.[14]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Geneva Covenanters (Independent) (1923)
1923 Geneva 6–2–1
Geneva: 6–2–1
Allegheny Gators (Independent) (1924–1925)
1924 Allegheny 5–2
1925 Allegheny 5–3
Allegheny: 10–5
Rochester Yellowjackets (Independent) (1926–1934)
1926 Rochester 3–5–1
1927 Rochester 6–2
1928 Rochester 5–2–1
1929 Rochester 6–2–1
1930 Rochester 7–2
1931 Rochester 3–5–1
1932 Rochester 4–5
1933 Rochester 1–6–1
1934 Rochester 5–2
Rochester: 40–31–5
St. Thomas Tomcats / Scranton Royals () (1937–1939)
1937 St. Thomas 6–1–1
1938 Scranton 7–2
1939 Scranton 7–0–2
St. Thomas / Scranton: 20–3–3
Western Reserve Red Cats (Big Four Conference) (1941–1942)
1941 Western Reserve 7–1 3–0 1st
1942 Western Reserve 8–3 3–0 1st
Western Reserve Red Cats (Independent) (1946)
1946 Western Reserve 4–3–2
Western Reserve Red Cats (Mid-American Conference) (1947)
1947 Western Reserve 1–4[n 1] 1–1
Western Reserve: 20–11–2 7–1
Total: 96–52–11
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ Davies was fired after the fifth game of the season and replaced with Richard W. Luther.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Funeral Held For All-American". The Derrick. March 2, 1972.
  2. ^ a b c d e Tom Davies at the College Football Hall of Fame
  3. ^ a b "Four Ex-Panthers To Be Honored". Evening Standard. December 8, 1966.
  4. ^ a b c d "Pitt Football's All-Time First Team All-Americans". University of Pittsburgh.
  5. ^ Philip E. Lyon (1920). Boy, Page Mr. Walter Camp: Phi Gamma Delta Has One Tom Davies Who Is An All-American Team in Himself!. The Phi Gamma Delta, Volume 43, p. 242.
  6. ^ "PANTHERS ELECT DAVIES: Sensational Halfback Chosen as Captain of Pitt Eleven" (PDF). The New York Times. December 3, 1920.
  7. ^ The Phi Gamma Delta, Volume 43, p. 579. 1920.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Tom Davies Takes Tough Red Cat Job: Former Pitt Halfback Succeeds Edwards at Western Reserve". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 8, 1941.
  9. ^ "Penn Players Will Start Work Sept. 4" (PDF). The New York Times. August 13, 1922.
  10. ^ Geneva College coaching records
  11. ^ "History of University of Scranton Football". University of Scranton Archives and McHugh Special Collections. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  12. ^ "Tom Davies Loses Job At Reserve: Gridders Requested His Discharge By Board of Athletics". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. October 30, 1947.
  13. ^ "Ex-Pitt Football Great Dies at 75". Oakland Tribune. March 1, 1972.
  14. ^ "Former Pitt star dies". New Castle News. March 1, 1972.
  15. ^ "WRU Football 1947/48 Season Record". University Archives. Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved May 3, 2016.

External links[edit]