davis

Paul Davis

LPD.

UNC.

NFL.

Those letters represented the signposts of the football journey of Paul Davis as the guy who was an All-Lonesome Pine District performer at Appalachia High School, became a standout at the University of North Carolina and then spent three seasons in the National Football League.

It all started at Appalachia, where Davis was a standout on the gridiron, the basketball court and on the track.

“I met Paul, whose nickname was Pug, my eighth-grade year in high school,” said former teammate Jeff Swiney. “That’s when I first heard the term Oak Street Gang. He lived on Oak Street in Appalachia and a lot of great athletes came out of that neighborhood. … During basketball season I was always the guy who had to defend him in practice. He ate my lunch daily. He always practiced hard and he studied hard.”

Those traits would serve him well when he arrived on the college campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“He worked hard to make his way,” said Mike Chatham, one of Davis’ teammates with the Tar Heels. “He would have been overlooked, but he kept doing the right things that led him to a starting role.”

Originally a linebacker in high school and in his early collegiate career, he shifted to nose guard in the spring of 1979 and it worked out well for both Davis and the Tar Heels.

In a 17-15 Gator Bowl win over Michigan televised by ABC, the hard-nosed junior had a fumble recovery and downed a punt on the Wolverines’ 1-yard line.

During his senior season in 1980, he recorded 79 tackles and made five tackles behind the line of scrimmage as the Tar Heels went 11-1, were ranked in the nation’s top-10 and beat the Texas Longhorns in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl at Houston’s Astrodome.

Joining Davis on that strong defensive unit was a linebacker by the name of Lawrence Taylor.

While Taylor played with a certain pizzazz, Davis was the strong and silent type from Southwest Virginia.

“Paul was so quiet when he arrived in Chapel Hill,” Chatham said. “I don’t think he really knew what he had signed up for, but he learned fast, endured and eventually was very successful. He was immediately loved and respected. He is just one of those guys that you love having as a friend. He came from a poor, rural area in Virginia. He didn’t have much when he got to Carolina, but he did come from a close family rich in values. He was easy to get to know and is, and always will be, a fantastic friend.

“He was very proud of his family and he respected his mother very much. She gave him many instructions when he left home to come to Chapel Hill. He obeyed her wishes and valued his upbringing.”

Despite his success with the Tar Heels, Davis went undrafted.

He appeared to be a longshot when he attended training camp with the Atlanta Falcons, yet Davis was undeterred.

“Paul grew so much during his collegiate years,” Chatham said. “He developed into a starter. I was definitely surprised when he made it into the NFL because of the enormous amount of talent he would be up against. However, Paul’s work ethic and willingness to do what it takes to succeed overcame his competition once again and he had a few good years playing in the NFL.”

The 6-foot-2, 221-pound Davis did indeed make it to the pros and spent the 1981-83 seasons as a linebacker and special teams contributor with the Falcons, New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

He appeared in 31 regular-season games and one playoff game.

Davis now lives in Florida, the author of a true Southwest Virginia success story.

“He was undersized for his position in college and used his talent and gutsy play to overcome his competition and become a starter,” Chatham said. “His story is storybook. A kid from nowhere, USA, goes to play Division I football for a prestigious college and not only is successful on the football field, but manages his studies and graduates in four years. Then, goes on to have a respectable NFL career … Paul’s story is pretty outstanding. I think back on it when I met him that first day in Chapel Hill for our first freshman football team meeting. He’s never changed. He’s the same soft-spoken, gentle, kind man he was the first day I met him.”

Now, for a look at high school football moments which occurred this week in history:

Oct. 7, 1960

Edison Holbrook’s touchdown pass to Paul Carter in the final moments gave Wise a 13-7 win over Coeburn. … Bob Farris and Doug Lawrence scored touchdowns for Saltville as the Shakers edged Virginia High, 13-12. … Ed Bales accounted for all three touchdowns as Marion topped Tazewell, 20-0.

Oct. 7, 1977

Steve Wright made nine tackles in Virginia High’s 14-8 victory over Graham. Tim Carter and Dave Canter scored touchdowns for the Bearcats. … Toby Meadows passed for 150 yards as Richlands rocked John Battle, 42-0. … Behind three touchdowns from Tadd Harmon, Sullivan East recorded a 21-13 win over Johnson County.

Oct. 3, 1980

David Hatfield scored three touchdowns in Saltville’s 41-6 hammering of Holston. … A touchdown run by Trevor Childress, an interception by David Osborne and a field goal by David Mitchell highlighted Haysi’s 11-3 triumph over Garden. … Billy Joe Hamm’s 199 rushing yards helped Marion power Patrick Henry, 28-14.

Oct. 5, 1990

Gary “Two” Morton (11 carries, 185 yards, three touchdowns) was too tough for Sullivan South as the Tennessee High Vikings rolled past the Rebels, 35-16. … Richard Rector rushed for five touchdowns in Patrick Henry’s 48-17 pummeling of St. Paul. … Behind 269 rushing yards from Jamie Bryant, J.J. Kelly cruised to a 40-6 win over Garden.

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thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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