Troy Davis is not only the best running back in Iowa State history, he is one of the greatest rushers ever to play college football. Davis shattered virtually every school rushing record in his three-year tenure with the Cyclones (1994-96), earning the distinction as ISU’s only two-time first-team consensus All-American and the school’s only player to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony twice.
The Miami, Fla., native was one of the most sought after recruits in the nation when he enrolled at ISU as a freshman in 1994. He was used sparingly his rookie season, rushing for 187 yards on 35 carries. He showed Cyclone fans a glimpse of his greatness in the final game of his freshman season, when he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown vs. Colorado. The feat still ranks as the longest kickoff return in school history.
Davis literally burst on the scene in his sophomore campaign, leading the nation in rushing (182.7) and becoming just the fifth rusher in NCAA history to record over 2,000 yards (2,010) in a season. First-year head coach Dan McCarney knew he had a special player in Davis and the stocky back (5-8, 185 pounds) carried the offensive load for the Cyclones.
Davis was a first-team all-Big Eight pick and consensus AP All-American after his stellar sophomore season. He broke the ISU single-game rushing mark in the first game of the year with 291 yards vs. Ohio and then shattered his own mark with 302 yards three games later vs. UNLV. He tallied four 200-yard rushing games and was held under 100 yards just once (Oklahoma). For his efforts, Davis was invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, where he finished fifth.
Davis’ encore his junior season (1996) was even better. He became the first and only person in NCAA history to rush for over 2,000 yards twice in a career, grinding out 2,185 yards to lead the nation in rushing for the second consecutive season. It was the third-best single-season rushing effort in NCAA history behind Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State) and Marcus Allen (USC). Davis rushed for at least 130 yards in all 11 games that year and broke the school record for touchdowns in a season with 21. Davis once again bested his single-game rushing mark, running for 378 yards vs. Missouri, the third-best rushing effort in NCAA history at the time. He was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and was a consensus first-team All-American for the second consecutive season. Davis was invited back to New York for the Heisman Trophy festivities, where he finished second in the balloting to Florida’s Danny Wuerffel.
His extraordinary achievements and records at ISU include virtually every rushing mark in school history: game (378), season (2,185) and career (4,382). He also owns or tied every touchdown mark in school history: game (5), season (21) and career (38). Davis racked up nine 200-yard rushing efforts in his career and his career 5.6 yards per carry total is the best in the Cyclone annals. His 4,195 yards gained in back-to-back seasons is still the most in NCAA Division I history.
Davis’ stock was soaring and he could not pass up a chance to make it at the next level. He decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility and enter the 1997 NFL Draft, where he was selected in the second round by the New Orleans Saints. Davis played three seasons with the Saints before switching to the Canadian Football League (CFL). He emerged as one of the top backs in the CFL, racking up five-straight 1,000-yard seasons in the pass-happy league. Davis was a CFL All-Star in 2004 for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when he rushed for 1,628 yards. Davis has rushed for 6,739 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his seven seasons in Canada.