Former Bills’ RB Kenneth Davis is a throwback player that reminds Bills’ fans of better days. Davis was a part of all four Super Bowl runs the Bills made, and a sometimes underappreciated member of the great Bills’ AFC dynasty in the early 90’s. Even though Davis was a backup to hall of famer Thurman Thomas, he was an important cog in the Bills’ no-huddle attack. While spelling the versatile Thomas, Davis racked up two seasons of over 600 yards rushing, and had a 4.4 average yards per carry in his six seasons with the Bills (1989-1994). Today, Davis is taking part in the Allstate Tailgate Tour’s stop at TCU, where Kenny was an all-american runner. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and see Kenny before the #4 Horned Frogs take on the BYU Cougars.
Kenny took some time out to grant us an interview, and here’s what he had to say about the state of the current Bills, and the great Bills teams he was a part of.
What have you been up to in your post-playing days?
The biggest thing that I’ve done is I’ve been working at coaching high school football in Dallas; I’m just a director and an administrator now.
Have you been keeping up with the Bills?
Yeah I keep up with ‘em. How could you not keep up with the Bills?! That was a big part of my life.
What do you think the Bills need to do to turn this team around?
You know something, I don’t see the hunger. Lately, and I’m not around on a day to day basis, but I can remember back when I played the guys were hungry. You had a guy like Thurman Thomas start in front of you, and he was a great athlete, but one thing he knew was that I was ready to play. Whether I played three plays or four plays, I was ready to play. When Frank Reich went in for Jim Kelly, when Don Beebe stepped in for Andre Reed, or when Keith McKellar stepped in for Pete Metzelaars, they knew. I just don’t see the hunger in the starters and the backups. The starters needed to stay hungry because they knew the backups where going to be so anxious and so hungry to play. I just don’t see that, I don’t see that killer instinct in the first and second teams whereas we had that all over.
I coached high school football and now things are different. I’ve seen it from a different perspective. Kids now have all these games and this technology, and I think (players now) see this as a game and not a job.
You were a second round pick by the Packers out of TCU in 1986. How did you end up with the Bills?
Green Bay was not a place for me. I told Scott Berchtold, who is with the Bills PR department now, I do not want to be here man, I want to be traded. I could just feel it in the air when I was in Buffalo, the players were good, the attitudes, the whole thing. When I was at Green Bay and I went to Buffalo it was like night and day. It was just a phenomenal thing. It was time for me to leave because I wanted to be successful. I wanted to go to an organization that wanted to be successful, that was going to fight and they were going to go out and do whatever it took to get there. That’s the biggest reason why I got out of Green Bay.
You were in great football markets in Green Bay and Buffalo, what did you think of the fans in Buffalo?
Oh man! The fans in Buffalo are unbelievable. I love the Buffalo Bills fans incredibly. When you come out, and there’s six or seven inches of snow, and they’re out there all bundled up, getting ready for the game, they’ve got their grills going. Then they’re in the stadium hooting and hollering, and you’re walking in the stadium and they’re giving you a high five. The weather is bad and the traffic is bad and they’re still coming. I think they had great fan support in Green Bay, and a lot of places, but I think my best fans would have to be Buffalo by far. Not only were they in the stadium, but you’d see them in a store or a grocery store and you could see they were just true, true, loyal fans. Oh man, Buffalo was great to me.
As a productive back, how were able to accept a backup role to another player?
I was hungry, it was the strive and the hunger. I loved the play the game, it was in my heart. I don’t think people realized when I came to Buffalo, practices were like two hours and 10 minutes, and then practices went to like an hour and 30 minutes. I don’t think some of the players realized until a little bit later, the starters and the backups, we just got so conditioned in what we did it didn’t take as long. I didn’t care about being a backup, I just wanted the opportunity to play the game. I wasn’t concerned with the parties, all the glory and all the press. I was just so happy to be one of the guys, on that team, that was going to be a part of that success.
How did you feel about playing in the Bills’ famed no-huddle offense?
I think that it was innovative. I just think it was a lot of excitement playing in the no huddle offense. I think we were so innovative in a lot of parts in the game, we were able to transition so many players in and out of the game that it was wonderful for me. It was one of the reasons I’m glad I played there.
What are some of your most memorable moments in Buffalo?
Some of my most memorable moments were going through training camp, and I know that sounds crazy, but going through training camp, we practiced hard every day. I appreciated it all the time. I didn’t care if it was practice, or in a game, or whatever, because I knew it wasn’t going to last forever, I knew it was going to come to an end. So ALL of it was great for me. I know there were memorable games, everybody says, “What about the Houston game (the greatest comeback in NFL history in which Davis stepped in for an injured Thurman Thomas)?” The Houston game was a great game. They ask, “What about the Raiders game?” The Raiders game was a great game. “What about the Super Bowls?” All of it was great. I enjoyed practice, I enjoyed team meetings, I enjoyed my entire career because I knew that it does not last forever. Why not enjoy all of it? Why would I come to work complaining or upset? I had a great job, a great salary, an incredible fan base, I truly appreciated every moment I was there. I tell the kids (he coaches and works with) when you learn to appreciate every moment, the practice, the meetings, the weight lifting and the conditioning, everything, that’s just going to make you better.
There was an infamous moment at the start of Super Bowl XXVI, when Thurman couldn’t find his helmet. What was your perspective as the guy who had to step in for him?
I didn’t have perspective of him losing his helmet because I was just standing on the sideline next to Elijah Pitts, and he starts telling me, “Go in! Go in!” I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. It startled me and really caught me off guard to go in the game because it had never been that way. So I ran in the game and ran the plays for him until he found his helmet. Then it came out that Bruce Smith talked about it as his hall of fame induction, saying he hid Thurman’s helmet. I’ve got to ask him one day, “Why did you hide his helmet?!”
There has been talk that your team was infamous for partying in the days leading up to the Super Bowls. How do you feel about that?
Well you know, anytime when you’re not successful or anything like that, people are going to have things to say about it. At one time we were the “Bickering Bills.” Did we party too much before the Super Bowls or during the season? Who knows? I don’t know, but I can’t reach back and dissect all of that because it’s not gonna change anything. What I can say is that when I stepped out on that field, every one of those men, and every one of those coaches was ready to go and ready to play the game. At that given time, it just might not have been our day, and it wasn’t our day, because we didn’t win. But you know what? We had our chance, though.
There were a lot of great characters on that team, who were the guys you identified as leaders?
You know people say there were a lot of characters on the team, but I just kind of go straight to the top, like now with Chan Gailey. What it boils down to is that’s where the buck stops. You could have those type of players, but you need good leaders. What are you doing to have these young men follow you and step up and play the game for you? I remember Coach (Marv) Levy would say things that were incredible in team meetings to get us ready.
I think you can have great players and all this tremendous talent, but you need to be led in the right direction and it doesn’t always work that way. You know people say this team needs better players, better offensive lineman, to get better at defense, we need to get better receivers, but it’s not all just that. It’s the leaders. That’s the person who decides if that receiver’s gonna stay, if that offensive lineman is going to stay. I go to the top. It goes from the top down.
What do you think of Ralph Wilson as an owner and how hands on do you think he is in football operations?
I think Ralph is a great owner. Ralph would come and stand around and talk to you on the field and relax you. He’d come around and talk to me and I was just a backup. He was a great owner, is still a great owner, and is a great individual.
I think that Ralph will always be involved in football decisions. How much he is involved is the story, but he has that right as a guy that owns the team.
There has been talk of Jim Kelly one day getting a group together to purchase the Bills one day. What kind of owner would he make?
I tell you what, if he gets a group together, they couldn’t get a better guy to buy that team. He’d be a great asset to the team and continue the legacy. I think he would give the team the opportunity to get the team to a championship for all the Buffalo Bills fans.
Anything else you’d like to tell the Bills fans?
Tell all the Buffalo Bills fans that I would love to come back there and work. Also, make sure to tell them thank you for all the great memories.