Davis was coach to several locals
Bill Davis spent the 1980s as an NFL executive with the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
It was Davis who, as the Browns’ Vice President of Player Personnel from 1981 to 1986, who brought in Cleveland legends like Boardman High School graduate Bernie Kosar, Hanford Dixon, Frank Minnifield, Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack, Bob Golic and Eddie Johnson — players who guided the Browns to multiple AFC Championship appearances in the late ’80s.
That’s how Browns’ fans remember the former Rayen High School standout who died Saturday at his Florida home at age 81.
Former Niles football player Bill Sullivan and Chaney product Jim Calcagni have different memories of Davis, a man they called coach in the early 1970s at Adrian College, an NCAA Division III school located about an hour northwest of Toledo in Michigan.
To the group of players at Adrian, Davis was more than a coach.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Sullivan, a 1970 Niles graduate. “He was tough, but he was fair. He worked us hard, but he was a great coach. Great football mind.”
Davis’ team won three Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association football championships (1970-72) with a 16-11 record, including a 12-3 MIAA mark. Davis is the only Adrian coach to have three consecutive conference titles in his tenure.
Davis was the head coach at Austintown Fitch High School and was an assistant at Westminster College in the mid-’60s before heading to Adrian from 1968-72.
He left Adrian to become Michigan State’s offensive backs coach from 1973-75. From there, he went to the Philadelphia Eagles as linebackers, tight end and special teams coaches from 1976-78. That was before he become an executive for the Dolphins, Browns and Eagles.
Davis never forgot that group from Adrian which won him three straight league titles.
“I asked him one time, ‘How many guys keep in contact with you?'” said Sullivan, 68, who was a center at Adrian. “He says, ‘You guys from Adrian, I always kept in contact with.’ He was a special guy.”
Calcagni said it wasn’t a surprise to him that Davis became an NFL executive.
“He was very organized, real detailed,” said Calcagni, 67, who played defense at Adrian. “Our practices were on a time schedule. His big thing was his organization. Then, his knowledge of how to pick talent.”
Those years in the early 1970s were like an all-star team of the Mahoning Valley, bringing some of the best players from Trumbull and Mahoning counties together at a small school in Michigan.
“It was almost like we all went together in a sense,” said Calcagni, a 1970 Chaney graduate. “We didn’t know each other until we went to Adrian. Then we all became good friends and stayed in touch all the way through these years.”
These men of Adrian stayed in touch throughout the years with the Davis family — his wife Joanne (Bubon) and his children Diane, Bret and Bill Jr., who is the Arizona Cardinals’ linebackers coach and a 25-year NFL coaching veteran.
The former Adrian players became part of the Davis family, gathering to play golf in Florida and Myrtle Beach, S.C., a couple of times a year — staying in touch with their former coach.
“Let’s put it this way, he never forgot you,” Calcagni said. “He treated you like you were one of his family.”
Sullivan was there with Davis, days before he passed away.
“He was a great guy. He taught us an awful lot,” Sullivan said. “Great coach. Great person. Great father, husband. Great friend.”