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VOL. 44 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 24, 2020

Ubiquitous Davis on top of the world

Former Vol DB again taking Super Bowl to global audience

By Rhiannon Potkey

Print | Front Page | Email this story

Charles Davis was in the middle of the broadcast when his cellphone began buzzing.

The PGA Tour was having a tournament in Dubai, and professional golfers were texting Davis to say they were watching him call the Super Bowl.

Although he always knew how far the NFL’s biggest event reached, it made Davis appreciate his status even more.

Davis will be the analyst on the NFL Films World Feed for the seventh consecutive year when the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers meet Feb. 2 in Miami.

The former University of Tennessee defensive back (1983-86) is working with Kevin Burkhardt, his Fox Sports NFL broadcast partner during the regular season. Bob Papa, his normal partner for the Super Bowl, had a conflict this season.

“I take a ton of pride in doing the international feed,” Davis says. “We know everyone in the U.S. is watching the main Super Bowl broadcast on Fox, NBC or CBS. But to be there to call the Super Bowl on-site and seeing it live is pretty cool. We are very lucky to get do that.”

The Super Bowl is part of a busy stretch for Davis.

He called the East-West Shrine Game for NFL Network this past weekend and will be calling the Senior Bowl broadcast this Saturday for NFL Network

Once the Super Bowl ends, Davis will start contributing to the NFL Draft coverage on multiple platforms while co-hosting a weekly SiriusXM NFL radio show.

Former University of Tennessee defensive back Charles Davis, right, works with Joel Klatt at the NFL Draft in Nashville. He will be the analyst on the NFL Films World Feed of the Super Bowl for the seventh consecutive year.

-- Photographs Provided

Davis has also been the game analyst voice for EA Sports’ Madden since 2016, and has been hosting “Sports Stars of Tomorrow” for the last eight years.

Davis wouldn’t have it any other way.

Embracing every assignment as a growth opportunity is how Davis, 55, climbed the broadcasting ladder.

He’s called Pop Warner, Little League, professional golf, college baseball, college softball, college volleyball and college basketball.

He’s been the analyst for BCS Championship games and co-hosted major TV studio shows.

“Every rep has helped me get better,’’ says Davis who was recently inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and works the preseason broadcasts for the Tennessee Titans.

“All the roles I’ve filled have helped me along the way. Was I always the right person? I don’t know. But I had an opportunity and I wasn’t turning it down and worked hard to be the best I could at it.”

After graduating from Tennessee, Davis dreamed of having a broadcasting career. But he didn’t gain much traction once he was cut from the Dallas Cowboys in 1987.

Former UT defensive back Charles Davis with broadcaster Dan Hellie at a Titans preseason game.

Even as he pursued jobs in athletic administration, Davis received encouragement to keep trying to gain a foothold in broadcasting from Harvey Schiller, a prominent sports executive and former SEC commissioner.

Davis’ name was eventually passed along to Steve Craddock at Fox Sports South. Two years later, he finally got his first shot on a broadcast.

“My goal at the time was to become the first black athletic director in the SEC because I didn’t think broadcasting was meant to be,” explains Davis, who obtained an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s degree in history at UT. “But things change and I have zero regrets about it. My path worked out for a reason and I have loved every minute of it.”

Laura Okmin first met Davis in 1997 when they both worked for Fox Sports South. They became close friends when they were on the same Fox NFL broadcast crew for three seasons.

“Charles is one of the hardest and smartest workers I have ever been around,” says Okmin, a Nashville resident. “He does so many things and he gives everything the time that it deserves. You never feel like he is overwhelmed by any of it or that he is shirking any of the responsibilities.”

Okmin will be achieving her own personal milestone at this year’s Super Bowl. It’s the first one she’ll be calling for a live broadcast as part of the Westwood One radio crew with Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner and Tony Boselli.

Okmin screamed when she got the call.

Charles Davis, former UT football player, and broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt work a Fox NFL game.

“I thought that window had been shut. I had covered the Super Bowl for so long that it wasn’t on my radar to actually call the game. I probably didn’t know how much I really did want it until it happened,” Okmin acknowledges.

“If you had given me a choice when I was younger when I wanted to do it, I probably would have said age 22. But I am so glad I didn’t have the choice because I appreciate it more at 50 than I would have at 22.”

Beyond his skill as a broadcaster, Davis stands out for the way he treats people. He’s readily accessible to nearly everyone and doesn’t view any assignment as beneath him.

That perspective was instilled by his parents while growing up in New Paltz, New York.

His father was a teacher and a coach, and his mother was a teacher’s aide. His father would have lunch with the janitorial staff at school and invite them to his house to cut their hair.

His parents told Davis he needed to know the name of the crossing guard, the person he bought his lunch from and the cleaning staff at his school.

“It’s not that they were trying to make this huge statement. But they were telling me that everyone matters,” Davis says. “They didn’t do it heavy-handed, but they wanted to make sure I was treating those people with the respect they deserve.”

Okmin witnessed it many times when traveling with Davis to games.

“Some people change depending on who walks into a room, but Charles never does. He treats everybody the same - everybody,” Okmin adds. “That is what really makes Charles stand out in a very crowded field of professionals.”

Davis jumped at the chance to return to UT last month to take part in an early signing day broadcast for social media. Davis co-hosted the show with fellow UT graduate and Titans play-by-play broadcaster Mike Keith.

“That was phenomenal and extremely rewarding because it was my alma mater,” Davis points out. “I was honored to even be asked to help my school. It was a lot of fun and it showed how terrific that broadcast department is. They do a fantastic job. I was blown away.”

No matter what event Davis is working, he often recalls the unintentional advice he received from former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel when preparing for a broadcast years ago.

Tressel was talking about assistant coaches spending so much time trying to get a bigger job that their performance at their current job suffered.

“He said the way to get to the next job is being really great at the job you currently have. I have never forgotten that,” Davis says.

“If you do a good job where you are, you don’t have to self-promote.”

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