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For ex-USC tailback Davis, it is now cash-and-carry

November 02, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

Here I am, wondering why I'm at this pig roast, USC about to slaughter the worst team in the nation, and it's not Stanford, so nothing can go wrong.

It's a waste-of-time game, and I'm here only to write about some USC fan who takes delight in being known as "syco." That's when I spot Anthony Davis.

Davis is seated at a small table in the middle of tailgaters about 40 yards from Tommy Trojan. He looks as if he's still wearing his Halloween costume, a black and silver suit with a tie and a No. 28 inside a swoosh across his chest.

He has a stack of photos in front of him, and he's signing autographs: "Best wishes always, Anthony Davis." Now isn't that nice, until the other hand reaches out for the money.

"Ten dollars," he says when I ask. "You want one?"

Tempting as it is, I pass.

A youngster approaches Davis with an open autograph book. Davis turns the kid away because the youngster is penniless. The kid shows the unsigned book to his dad, and his dad asks Davis for an explanation.

Davis finally agrees to give the kid an autograph, so long as his old man drops a five spot into the box.

"Is it really cool to charge for your autograph?" I ask.

"It goes to the Anthony Davis Foundation," says Davis, and while he's none too happy with the question, there isn't any mention of the foundation on the table or the box.

I would think that would make a difference, turning what might appear to be a pathetic-looking situation -- the aged athlete trying to still capitalize on a big day 34 years ago -- instead into a noble effort to raise money for needy kids.

"I put six kids through school who otherwise couldn't afford to go to school," Davis says. "I wouldn't be out here without a reason."

That sounds like a wonderful cause, and what a great picture it would make -- six kids standing arm in arm -- taped to the top of the box.

But later when I ask USC officials about the foundation, everyone remembers the role Davis played in the comeback to beat Notre Dame, but no one knows anything about the foundation.

The computer-savvy kid sitting next to me in the Coliseum who blogs about USC and UCLA for The Times, says he can look up tax returns for nonprofit organizations. These kids today are so bright, and hopefully dedicated to writing for only Page 1 in the sports section.

The kid pulls up a 2006 return for the Davis Foundation. It starts in July and runs through Dec. 31, taking in more than $31,000 -- $13,250 going to scholarships and the rest to expenses.

Maybe 2007 was better, because it's got to take more than $13,250 to get six kids through USC, but the kid couldn't find a tax return for 2007.

Now I'm no rookie when it comes to the Internet, so I do a Google search for "Anthony Davis Foundation" and it brings me to "Notre Dame Killer," a site dedicated to Davis. The site offers signed helmets for $265 and autographed footballs for $150.

I wonder whether all that money goes to the foundation. There's no mention.

In fact, I couldn't find any place on the site where someone might donate to the foundation. And no mention of the six needy kids. The guy sure is humble.

There's only a brief mention of the foundation in the last paragraph of his bio right above this quote from Davis: "Not a day has gone by when people don't talk to me about the game."

I'm sure he's done more in his life than what he accomplished 34 years ago one day against Notre Dame. Putting six kids through USC tops that.

And with all the money that's going into that 6box week after week, you would think that quote would read: "Not a day has gone by when people don't pat me on the back for helping out kids."

I guess he just needs to do a better job of letting people know what he's really accomplished in his life.

--

I BUMPED into Davis by accident. He was signing next to Roy Nwaisser's tailgating party.

A friend of Nwaisser's e-mailed to say Nwaisser was going to his 200th consecutive USC game, and you can imagine my first reaction: Stop the presses.

Nwaisser hasn't missed a Trojans game in 17 years and tries to get on TV holding up a license plate that reads: "USC SYCO."

You can understand why Davis caught my attention.

I'm sure Nwaisser has a number of really nice stories to tell about his travels. And he seems like a great guy, almost normal, saying it's only 12 days of his life each year, so then why should anyone care?

Giles Pellerin went to 797 consecutive Trojans games before he died. His brother Oliver went to 637 consecutive games. And his brother Max went to 300-plus, nobody keeping track because when your brother has gone to twice as many games, who cares?

Tim Tessalone, USC's PR guy, went to 243 games before missing a game, the only thing I remember about that is everyone hoping he might extend his streak of missed games to two.

Maybe in another 40 years or so when Nwaisser gets to within 100 games of Pellerin, one of his friends might get in touch with the kid who has taken over Page 2 and see if he's interested.

My guess, as smart as these kids are today, is he won't be.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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