B Ben Davis (American football)
Position: Cornerback, Return specialist
Date of birth: October 30, 1945 (age 71)
Place of birth: Birmingham, Alabama
High school: Fair Lawn (NJ)
College: Defiance College
NFL Draft: 1967 / Round: 17 / Pick: 439
Cleveland Browns (1967–1973)
Detroit Lions (1974–1976)
Career NFL statistics
Kickoff return yards: 860
Punt return yards: 240
Player stats at NFL.com
Benjamin Frank "Ben" Davis (born October 30, 1945) is a former professional American football cornerback and return specialist for ten years in the National Football League. He is the brother of political activist Angela Davis.
1 Early years
2 Professional career
4 Personal life
Benjamin Davis was born in 1945 in Birmingham, Alabama. His father, a graduate of St. Augustine's College, a traditional black college in Raleigh, North Carolina, was briefly a high school history teacher, but found it more lucrative to own and operate a service station in the black section of Birmingham. His mother, with an MA from New York University, was an elementary school teacher. The family owned a large home in a middle class mixed neighborhood called "Dynamite Hill" after so-called "night rider" terrorists began bomb attacks on civil rights leaders clustered there.
To avoid the racial strife for which Dynamite Hill was named, children in the Davis family spent time with friends and relatives elsewhere. Ben graduated from a New Jersey high school at the age of 15, then marked time by attending Bridgton Academy, a prep school in Maine until he was old enough to enroll in Defiance College in rural Defiance, Ohio.
“I went to Defiance because I was looking for the same type of environment as the prep school,” Davis told Fred Greetham in 2001. “I was in the band in high school, but I decided to go out for the football team in college. By the time we were seniors, we were undefeated.”
Davis was drafted in the 17th (and last) round by the Cleveland Browns in the 1967 NFL Draft. With Paul Warfield, Gary Collins and Clifton McNeil already established as receivers, Davis was switched to a defensive role—and he did well. In his rookie year, he led the league in punt returns, averaging 12.7 yards per return, and one 52-yard return for a touchdown. He also led the Browns in returning kickoffs, with 27 returns totalling 708 yards, including one of 63 yards.
Only Leroy Kelly (15.6), Greg Pruitt (12.9) and Eric Metcalf (12.9) ever had better years, returning punts for the Browns.
In 1968, Davis started as cornerback, and led the team with 8 interceptions. Others were nipping at his heels: the season's 32 interceptions that year set a Browns' record. His individual performance is the 3rd-best in Browns history - and he still holds the record for seven consecutive games with an interception.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament benched Davis during the 1969 season, and half the 1970 season.
He was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1974 for a 5th-round draft pick. The Browns picked Jim Cope from Ohio State University, who fared poorly in the NFL. Davis, however, played two more seasons for the Lions before retiring from the field.
Davis went into copier sales after his football career ended, then went into cable television and bought a radio station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since 1995, he's owned and operated Britt Business Systems, a Xerox dealer, in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood, Ohio. Davis has lived in Cleveland since 1967, even commuting to Detroit when he played for the Lions.
Benjamin and Sylvia Davis have two grown children, Cecilie and Ben III, who both live in California. Davis's sister, Angela Davis, was a prominent political activist in the 1970s. A younger brother, Reggie Davis, also attended Defiance College.