Charles Davis on his unlikely rise through broadcasting ranks

The current roster of NFL game analysts includes three Hall of Famers, former MVPs, Pro Bowlers, Super Bowl players and a Super Bowl winning coach.

And then there is Charles Davis, who never played a down in the NFL. Undrafted as a defensive back at Tennessee, he was cut during training camp by Dallas in 1987. Even though his pro career ended before it got started, he did have a memorable moment.

"I'm proud to say I did get cut [directly] by Tom Landry," Davis said. "We had a wonderful conversation. He asked about my plans. I told him, 'I want to go back to grad school.' He said, 'I think that is a great direction for you to pursue.'"

Neither man could have predicted that 30 years later Davis would have a featured role on NFL Sundays. Davis and play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt form Fox's No. 2 team; he actually is working with Kenny Albert in October while Burkhardt is anchoring Fox's studio coverage during the baseball postseason.

Davis has bucked long odds considering NFL analyst jobs almost always go to former players who were some of the game's biggest stars and coaches. Of course, there are rare exceptions, but nobody will ever compare Davis to Howard Cosell, Dennis Miller and Tony Kornheiser, unique personalities who have sat in the Monday Night Football booth.

"I never thought I would be in this position," Davis said. "I know the landscape and how it works."

Davis initially seemed destined to make his mark as a sports executive. He performed a variety of different roles during the 1990s. He served as an assistant athletic director at Stanford University; was director of the United States Olympic Training Center; and also became the first African-American tournament director in PGA Tour history when he ran the Disney Golf Classic from 1998-2000.

"I wanted to be the first African-American athletic director in the SEC," Davis said.

Davis says his broadcast career actually began as "a fluke." In 1997, Fox Sports South asked him at the last minute to serve as an analyst on college football games. He loved the job and quickly got noticed. In 2007, Fox tabbed him to work as the lead analyst on the network's coverage of the BCS Championship games and then its college football package. He eventually moved full-time to the NFL in 2015.

Along the way, Davis knew he was an unconventional choice to assume such high-profile roles in the booth. So he played to his strength.

"I've never been one to take no for an answer," Davis said. "My goal always was to be in position where if the natural order of selection didn't come through, I might be an alternative. If you give me a chance, I want to make it difficult to get rid of me."

Davis also joined NFL Network in 2006, where he was asked to focus on the NFL Draft. He wasn't thrilled with the assignment at first.

"I said, 'What do I know about this?'" Davis said. "I never really followed the Draft other than watching it on TV."

Davis' work on the NFL Draft turned out to be a major plus as he transitioned to Sunday game coverage. He gets to know the players before they come into the league, and they also get to know him.

"I'm somewhat recognized by the guys coming up," Davis said. "They go, 'I've seen this guy before.'"

Davis and Burkhardt were supposed to work as a trio this year with Jay Cutler. The former Chicago quarterback initially said he was retiring to join Fox Sports as a NFL game analyst. David and Burkhardt spent a day getting to know Cutler in Nashville and were set to do some practice broadcasts during the preseason.

But that all ended in August when Miami called Cutler to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.

"Jay is really smart," Davis said. "He felt excited about the challenge of working with Fox. But there was a feeling in the back of our minds that Jay thought he still could play."

So now Davis works solo with Burkhardt (when he isn't on baseball duty). He says there was instant chemistry, saying his partner is "as good as it gets."

Together, they are calling some of the best games in the NFL this year. All in all, not bad for a guy who got cut in training camp by Tom Landry.

"I always felt if I worked hard enough, why not me?" Davis said. "It's worked out pretty well."

Moving story: On this week's TNF GameDay, prior to Thursday's Miami-Baltimore game, the NFL 360 On a Mission feature pays tribute to former Ravens TE Konrad Reuland and how his decision to become an organ donor saved the life of baseball great Rod Carew and several others.

Both the Reuland and Carew families, who are working to promote awareness around organ donation with non-profit Donate Life America, will be in attendance at Thursday's game. On a Mission is currently available to view at NFL.com/360.

Extra points: NFL Network has exclusive coverage of the Minnesota-Cleveland game from London on Sunday at 9:30 ET. That means an extremely early wake-up call for the Los Angeles-based NFL GameDay Kickoff crew. Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin and Steve Mariucci go on the air at 7 a.m. ET, 4 a.m. out there. The program features the latest Life After Football on former Vikings defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo and his singing career, which includes a current run as a contestant on NBC's The Voice.

Starting this Saturday, Good Morning Football: Weekend expands to three hours and now airs at 9:00 a.m. ET.

On ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, Mina Kimes will have an E:60 story on Seattle's Kam Chancellor's journey from Norfolk, Va., to become one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL.

Week 8 announcer lineup

Thursday

CBS/NFL Network/Amazon Prime Video, 8:25 p.m. ET
Miami at Baltimore: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo

Sunday

NFL Network 9:30 a.m. ET
Minnesota vs. Cleveland in London: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green

CBS 1:00 p.m. ET
Oakland at Buffalo: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
Los Angeles Chargers at New England: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Indianapolis at Cincinnati: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta

CBS 4:05 p.m. ET
Houston at Seattle: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon

FOX 1:00 p.m ET
San Francisco at Philadelphia: Kenny Albert, Charles Davis
Atlanta at New York Jets: Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber
Chicago at New Orleans: Justin Kutcher, Chris Spielman
Carolina at Tampa Bay: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston

FOX 4:25 p.m. ET
Dallas at Washington: Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman

NBC 8:30 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh at Detroit: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth

Monday

ESPN 8:30 p.m. ET
Denver at Kansas City: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden

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