Part of Chris Davis’ home game duties as Associate General Manager for Auburn IMG Sports Network is to take Auburn’s playmakers to the Heisman Room, right next to the Auburn locker room, for post-game interviews. But the night of Nov. 30, 2013, it wasn’t just a player—Chris Davis was escorting an Auburn legend: Chris Davis. That 109-yard field goal return to topple the Tide hadn’t just changed the game, it had changed No. 11’s life—and several other lives, at least for a while.
Davis, 33, is one of several, maybe dozens of Auburn fans living in the state of Alabama who share the name of the most famous person in Iron Bowl history, the man who made the past year the most relaxing ever for Auburn fans not named Chris Davis, and one of the most surreal ever —or at least interesting, or annoying (there were a few who didn’t want to talk about it)— for those who are.
“It’s been a unique, cool experience,” Davis says. “I don’t wear it out. I’m not that guy that says ‘hey, my name’s Chris Davis!’ But sometimes when someone, especially an Auburn person—they’ll look and do a pause, and I’m like, ‘yeah, like the guy who ran the ball back.'”
What with residing in Auburn and working so closely in conjunction with Auburn’s Athletic Department, those pauses are a little longer than ones your regular old Auburn fan Chris Davis might have to deal with.
“Naturally, also being what I do for a living here, being introduced at different events (has been interesting),” Davis says. “There’s been some funny, good cracks by (Auburn IMG Network radio announcer) Rod Bramblett: ‘We have Chris Davis here to say hi to everybody.’ I’ll stand up and walk up and he’ll say ‘there goes Davis!’ and then people are disappointed it was me and not someone else.”
Davis says he also uses his name to have a little fun with business associates, especially the Alabama fans he’s already on a first-name basis with.
“I’ll say ‘hey, this is Chris Davis’ and they’ll say ‘I don’t need you to say your name every time you call.'”
For Auburn fans that actually live a couple of hours north in what’s largely Tide territory, being Chris Davis these days can you as many glares as it does smiles.
“Well, around Birmingham you do get a few dirty looks here and there,” says Chris Davis, a 2007 Auburn graduate from Helena who works at the Birmingham VA Medical Center. “Especially when I have my Auburn hat on.”
And especially from his Bama fan neighbors—at least the night it happened.
“I watched (the Iron Bowl) at home,” Davis says. “I’m pretty sure all of them were a little irritated at me. They could probably hear me from inside the house.”
Despite his Saban-serving surroundings, Davis says his family “are all Auburn fans.”
Do they brag about being related to Chris Davis?
“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” he laughs, “but yeah, it’s kind of a running joke amongst ourselves.”
Chris Davis, a 1995 Auburn graduate who owns a landscape company in Detla, Ala. near Anniston, says he’s been “definitely kidded” about his name over the past year (“My friends down in Georgia give me hell about it”) but actually tries to use it to his advantage out on the job.
“When I introduce myself and tell people my name, I say ‘just remember I’m the guy who caught the ball and ran it back against Alabama.'” Davis says. “He’s a black football player that’s 6-foot-something, I’m a white, short guy doing landscaping. But what he did was great. Everybody respects him.”
Davis says he respected No. 11’s abilities as a player, and appreciated having the same name as an Auburn football star even before he became an Auburn rock star.
When the Anniston Star arrived the morning after Auburn’s near upset vs. LSU in 2012, in which Chris Davis was one of the few bright spots, the Davis’ got out the scissors. The paper routinely prints full-page photos of standouts from the previous week’s games. They knew they’d be getting them out again after last year’s Iron Bowl.
“My wife has two pictures of him,” Davis says. “We still have them on the fridge.”
Davis actually says he’s dealt with cases of mistaken identity with others who share his not exactly uncommon name all his life. He says just in his tiny corner of the state alone there are at least two other Chris Davises. There’s the Chris Davis who works at the bank in Heflin, and there’s the Chris Davis who has a mustache and walks his Chihuahua and eats at Jack’s.
“I even went to school (at Auburn) with another Chris Davis,” Davis says. “He had long blond hair, I had long curly hair.”
But since both were hippies, both worked with dirt—curly Chris Davis was in landscape, blonde Chris Davis was an Ag major—and both liked to have a good time, wires often got crossed.
“He’d have parties at his house and sometimes people would show up my house. “I’d say ‘it’s the blonde Chris Davis.’”
Chris Davis, a retired educator from Clanton who graduated from Auburn in 1969, is used to the confusion, too.
“Yeah, I graduated from Auburn and my name is Chris Davis,” Davis sighs and replies as if for the thousandth time, “but there’s a bunch of them. There’s two or three here in Chilton County, some of them good, some of them bad. There’s the Chris Davis (of the Baltimore Orioles) who led the majors in home runs last year. Even my ENT is named Chris Davis.
“I’ve had a lot of people kid me about it (the Iron Bowl) and stuff, but it just goes with the territory with having that name, I guess.”
For Chris Davis, a 29-year-old electrical engineer in Birmingham who walked across the stage with his second degree from Auburn in the spring of 2013, but whose contact information was still showing up in AU’s student directory after another Auburn student named Chris Davis ran 109 yards down the field that fall, what came with the territory were emails from sports agents telling him he had “the ability to play professional football in the NFL” and bloggers requesting he do a Q&A about his Draft prospects.
“One I really enjoyed was from a Green Bay journalist who had heard the Packers might be interested in Chris Davis and wanted to talk to him,” Davis says. “We had a nice little back and forth and I was basically saying ‘I’d love to do an interview with, but I’m not sure you’d want a mathematician.”
Davis was one of the few Chris Davises to witness his name be etched into Iron Bowl lore in person.
“We were lucky enough to be at the game last year,” he says. “It was just amazing. Sitting in the end zone above the concourse, watching as Chris was running toward us was really awesome.”
Our first Chris Davis, Associate General Manager for Auburn IMG Network Chris Davis, wasn’t just watching an Auburn football player make a once-in-a-lifetime play, he was watching a friend.
“At the end of the day, it’s kind of neat to know the guy who actually did that,” Davis says. “It’s one thing to have your names be the same, but to know the guy…
Davis says that because they had the same name, he’d followed Chris Davis’ Auburn career from the start.
“We’d always make a joke. I’d always say, ‘make sure you represent my freakin’ name, dude.'”
So before Chris Davis handed Chris Davis off for the post-Best Game Ever interview, he told him “Way to rep the name, man!”
“He said ‘I repped the name tonight, boy,” Davis says. “‘I made it legendary.'”
More Iron Bowl:
* Were Auburn fans really pulling for the Russians over Alabama in 1977?
* Bama students did this to their own campus before the 1953 Iron Bowl
* Congrats, Auburn fans—you survived an earthquake
* Cremated remains found in Jordan-Hare Stadium after Iron Bowl
* Cam Newton ‘War Eagles’ throughout his post-game press conference Sunday after Iron Bowl
* New York Post: Iron Bowl ending ‘greatest in the history of sports’
* Pensacola bridge completely covered in Auburn graffiti after Iron Bowl