Ben Davidson, former Husky and NFL star, dies at 72
Davidson played at UW for two years before starring in the NFL and on television
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Ben Davidson, the former Husky defensive end who starred for the Oakland Raiders in the 1960s before becoming a famous television pitch man, has died. He was 72.
Davidson died Monday night. He was being treated for prostate cancer. Former Raiders coach John Madden first reported Davidson's death Tuesday on KCBS radio in San Francisco.
Davidson spent 11 years in pro football, starting with the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins in the NFL before joining the Raiders in the AFL in 1964.
He played in 152 NFL games, won one NFL title and played in one Super Bowl, but only started two games for the Huskies in his two years with the team.
Davidson didn't play football until he was talked into it at East Los Angeles Community College. From there, he was recruited by then-UW coach Jim Owens and played end for the 1959 and 1960 Husky teams, winning the Rose Bowl both of those seasons. UW went 20-2 in Davidson's two seasons.
He was then a fourth-round pick by the New York Giants in 1961. He played his rookie season with Green Bay, winning the NFL championship with the Packers in 1961.
After two years with the Redskins, he joined the Raiders, where the 6-foot-8 Davidson became famous.
With his distinctive handlebar mustache, raspy voice and physical play, Davidson helped personify Al Davis' renegade Raiders of the 1960s.
"He was a tough, gutsy ballplayer, team-oriented with enough meanness in him to be feared and enough talent to be effective," former Raiders teammate Tom Flores said.
In a 2002 story in The Seattle Times, Davidson credited his time at UW for shaping his career.
"I was young (just 19 when he enrolled at UW), but I could run and play hard," he said. "I didn't know any other way."
One of Davidson's most memorable plays came on Nov. 1, 1970, against Kansas City. The Raiders trailed 17-14 late in the fourth quarter when Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson ran for a first down to seemingly seal the win.
As Dawson was on the ground, Davidson dived into him with his helmet. In a rage, Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor jumped on Davidson and a brawl ensued.
The play was negated by offsetting penalties and the Chiefs eventually had to punt. Oakland tied the score on a field goal with 8 seconds remaining and that proved to be the difference in the AFC West race.
"He was just a big, tall, skinny guy that Davis took a chance with," Flores said. "He was able to rush the passer and worked hard to get bigger and stronger, with the character and personality. He was always that way."
After his playing career, Davidson became a successful actor with roles in films like "M-A-S-H," "Conan the Barbarian" and "Necessary Roughness" and he played himself in Miller Lite ads.
Davidson is survived by his wife, Kathy, and daughters Jan, Dana and Vicki.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bob Condotta contributed
to this report