By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Gary Sanders' first three seasons announcing Auburn football games, from 1968-70, coincided with the last three for Charlie Davis, who was Auburn's color commentator from 1954-70.
"Charlie was the penalty guy," Sanders recalled. "Whenever a flag flew, he explained what the penalty was. Play by play is like riding a bicycle. Everybody rides it a little differently, has a different talent. We had to adjust to each other."
Davis, who died November 28 at the age of 92, and Sanders remained friends after their time together in the press box on the Plains.
"I think we got along well," Sanders said. "I feel fortunate, in the last year or so, I have probably gone to lunch with Charlie five or six times. Went to his 90th birthday party a couple years ago. I played a lot of golf with Charlie. Charlie felt like, at 92, he had a lived a long, full life and had done almost everything."
Davis grew up an Auburn fan in Alexander City. After fighting in World War II, he graduated from the University of Alabama.
"I think he was an Auburn guy who went to school in Tuscaloosa," Sanders said. "That would be a good description of Charlie."
In a tribute for Lindy's Sports, Lyn Scarbrough quotes Davis: "Right after I was hired, a lot of Auburn people would challenge me," he recalled not long ago. "They would ask `How did you get this job? You went to Alabama.' One day in the Field House, I ran into Coach Jordan and told him what had happened. He said, `Charlie, you just tell them that I chose you for this job, then see what they say.' That's what I did and that's when all that stopped."
After leaving Auburn, Davis managed a television station in Dothan before returning to Birmingham, where he served on the city council in Vestavia Hills for 24 years.
"Charlie was an interesting guy," Sanders said. "He wore a lot of hats at WAPI. He was the radio program director. He was the morning air personality. He was the color announcer on the Auburn games, and he did all of the network setting up. And he was pretty close to (Auburn athletic director) Jeff Beard and Shug Jordan."
David Housel, former Auburn athletic director and sports information director, says he'll never forget the comment Davis made late in the broadcast of the 1969 Iron Bowl.
"'Well, Gary,'" Housel remembered. "'If you don't like to hear `War Eagle,' you're in for a rough night in Birmingham.'" Soon after, Connie Frederick took off on his famous 84-yard fake punt touchdown run in Auburn's 49-26 win.
Housel says, in those days, the commentator provided "the flavor of the game," more than analysis.
Sanders says his former partner was skilled at doing just that.
"Charlie was a guy with a great broadcast voice who had done an awful lot of things over a long period of time and made a living in a business that is probably not as good of a business as it used to be," he said. "When Charlie and I came along, it was a much better way to make a living."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer