FOR THE LOVE OF FOOTBALL, KIDS
Former Houston Oiler Davidson Serves Passion For Game Long After Playing Days Had Ended
HOUSTON – For nearly 40 years of his life, Greg Davidson has been involved with the game of American football. And with that involvement comes an intimate knowledge of the mandated and optional equipment every player wears. From the first time Davidson was fitted with a helmet and shoulder pads as an 8-year old in 1966, the former National Football League player spent 38 of the next 43 years dealing with football and football equipment.
“Thank goodness a man came and knocked on my door,” said Davidson, who was born in small-town Iowa and moved to Houston when he was seven years old. “He said, ‘Hey, I heard you have an eight year old. Would he be interested in playing football?’” The answer was a quick and resounding “yes.”
Readying for his first season of little league football with the Westbury Cougars of the F.U.N. Football League, Davidson pulled on very crude versions of today’s football helmet and shoulder pads. Made with safety in mind, the equipment Davidson was first asked to wear was not the most comfortable. In fact, it was downright painful at times. However, it served the same purpose for him in the late 1960s as it does for kids today.
“The helmets were as good (then) as (they are) today,” said Davidson, who currently owns Davidson Real Estate Co. in the Houston area. “You had a strong plastic shell, ear pads, maybe a forehead (pad) and there might have been more. But canvas straps and that's it. (Because of the design) we didn't use our heads as much. (We used) shoulder tackling and side body blocks. Headaches were the same, (gone by the) third or fourth practice. When the better helmets came out our necks would hurt the first couple of days. That was because of the hits and the tight helmet. I finally got smart and started wearing a baseball cap a size tighter to get ready.”
As he grew older and moved from little league to junior high to high school, the pads and equipment required to play the game changed, but not the desire. “In high school I was a defensive tackle, a two technique head up on the guard,” Davidson said. “I was an offensive tackle and then on goal line I was a tight end, because I had good hands. I weighed just 194 pounds my senior year. That was the end of November, and by Feb. 1, I was 220 pounds. That gives you an idea of how much we ran. Especially going both ways.” After playing four years at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, a suburb of Houston, Davidson moved to Denton, Texas, and made his way on to the roster as a deep snapper and center for the North Texas State University Mean Green.
After four years at what is now the University of North Texas, Davidson was signed as a free agent by the Houston Oilers in 1980, where he played as a center and deep snapper in 39 games for head coaches Bum Phillips and Eddie Biles.
After being let go before the 1983 season, Davidson was signed by the San Antonio Gunslingers of the United States Football League. He was traded early on to the Michigan Panthers before garnering his release, coming back to Texas and signing with the Houston Gamblers for the 1984 season. Finally, after 18 years of gearing up to chase down quarterbacks in his early days or deliver perfect snaps on punts and field goals in college and the pros, Davidson decided to unsnap the chin strap of his helmet for the final time.
“I was glad it was over,” Davidson said about the end of his playing days. “I wanted to move on. I went to the real estate office that day. “Sure, there are times you miss (putting on the helmets and shoulder pads) and wish you could still play.”
He walked away from the game he loved, never expecting to find his way back. Just a few short years later and his oldest son, Beau Davidson, now ready to play his first year of organized football, Davidson was sucked back in. He spent those first days back in the game fitting his own kid with a helmets, shoulder pads, pants and jersey.
Turning Back The Clock
While Davidson wore helmets and shoulder pads from 1966 through 1983, he then made the switch to fitting players with the equipment. Despite being dead set against coaching youth football, Davidson made the transition from former player to current coach when he joined the Klein Oilers, a team based in Spring, Texas, for the All-American Youth Football and Drill Team organization in 1990, where he stayed until 2009.
In 16 of his 19 seasons with the Klein Oilers in the AAYFDT, he coached his four sons – Beau, who played at North Texas and is currently the defensive coordinator at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas; Steph Davidson, who played at North Texas and is now the linebackers coach at Azle High School in Azle, Texas; Will Davidson, who played at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, and Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and is soon to be a football coach; and Walker Davidson, who played into high school.
Davidson’s first duty with the Klein Oilers, help fit players with equipment. One of the most important parts of the process on a Davidson coached team. “The equipment the kids wear has to be complete,” Davidson said. “We wouldn’t allow them on the field otherwise.”
But, it just started with the equipment. Davidson was meticulous about all aspects of the game. “It's the little things,” said Davidson, who played for legendary head coach Hayden Fry and offensive coordinator Bill Snyder at NTSU. “From how they wear their uniform, to the equipment, to how they get in a stance, to how they acted toward their opponent, it was all important. … Little things, if you do them right become big things.” Big things, as in 12 AAYFDT Super Bowl titles in his nearly two decades with the Klein Oilers.
Today, kids are faced with numerous choices in the way of helmets, from Riddell and Schutt, and shoulder pads, from Schutt and Douglas. But that is not where the choices for protection end. No, there are multiple kinds of mouth pieces to protect your teeth; external pads for arms, elbows and hands; shoulder pad add-ons to protect necks, ribs and lower backs; and padded shirts and shorts for extra protection under the pads. And you can be assured that more choices will become available as technology of the equipment progresses. “Helmets and gloves (have gone through) the biggest changes,” Davidson said about the evolution of the equipment. “The rules of the game will (see) the biggest changes (in the future).” As the game of football continues to change, so will the equipment.