The last time Duane Davis was in Minnesota, he was playing the role in the 1994 movie “Little Big League” of Jerry Johnson, a Twins right fielder who is released by a 12-year-old owner and manager but comes back to serve as the team’s third-base coach and hitting instructor.
Well, the former actor will be back in Minnesota plenty this fall. His son is Wyatt Davis, who was taken in the third round of the NFL draft last month out of Ohio State and could be the Vikings’ Week 1 starter at right guard.
On top of that, Duane’s father and Wyatt’s grandfather is late Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame defensive end Willie Davis. So the prospect of Wyatt now playing for the Vikings is rather interesting.
“It’s so mind blowing,’’ Duane said. “It’s just ironic that he would end up in the Black and Blue Division in the NFC North, and playing for Minnesota. It just brings me back to thinking that when Wyatt was probably 7 or 8 years old, we took him to Lambeau Field for a game against the Vikings and he and my other son (David Davis) got to go on the field before the game and watch the Packers warm up. It’s just surreal.’’
Willie Davis played for Cleveland from 1958-59 and with the Packers from 1960-69. He was named first-team all-pro five times, won five NFL championships under legendary coach Vince Lombardi and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. He died in 2020 at the age of 85 in the Los Angeles area, where the family long has lived.
“Wyatt and his grandfather were very, very close,’’ Duane said. “He would give Wyatt pretty good tips. He said his big goal was always trying to get offensive linemen uncomfortable and in awkward positions, and he was always mindful of telling Wyatt to take advantage of leverage and those type of conversations.’’
After Wyatt Davis was drafted by the Vikings on April 30 with the No. 86 overall pick, he paid tribute to the memory of Willie Davis.
“I know that my grandfather, he’s looking down upon me right now and smiling,’’ said Wyatt, 22. “Now, it’s up to me to uphold the legacy that he built for my family. Now that I have this opportunity, I definitely will be making the most of out of it. … I know my granddad’s screaming and yelling from up above.’’
Wyatt’s father, 60, also has gained a measure of fame. Starting in the mid-1980s, he had a notable 25-year career before he retired as an actor about 10 years ago to focus on the five radio stations he owns under the name of All-Pro Broadcasting, a company originally started by Willie Davis. Three are in Milwaukee and two are in Southern California.
In addition to “Little Big League,’’ other notable roles Duane played were as Alvin Mack in 1993’s “The Program,’’ Featherstone in 1991’s “Necessary Roughness,’’ former heavyweight champion Buster Douglas in 1995’s “Tyson,’’ Johnson in 1992’s “Under Siege,’’ Hambone Busby in 1992’s “Diggstown” and as a football player in 1988’s “Beetlejuice.”
According to the Internet Movie Database, Duane has 48 movie and television credits. A number of them were in sports movies, with two of his notable roles being in the football films “The Program” and “Necessary Roughness.’’
Duane felt right at home in those roles considering he was a tight end at Missouri from 1980-84. Injuries, namely tearing an anterior cruciate ligament twice, slowed his college career, and he failed a physical after the Seattle Seahawks wanted to sign him after his graduation.
“A kind of a weird side note, (Vikings coach Mike) Zimmer was a graduate assistant my freshman year (in 1980),’’ Duane said. “When Wyatt got drafted, one of the first things that a lot of my buddies texted me was, ‘You know, Zimmer was one of our GAs.’ Yeah, I definitely remembered.’’
After football didn’t work out, Duane returned to his home in Los Angeles and began taking acting classes. When he had many of his notable roles, Wyatt had not yet been born.
“It was funny because I didn’t find out my dad was an actor until I was probably about 6 years old,’’ said Wyatt, born in 1999 in the Los Angeles suburb of Bellflower, Calif. “That’s actually the first time I saw the movie ‘The Program,’ because we were over at a family friend’s house and they put it on. I just remember hearing some pretty explicit scenes out of my dad’s mouth and I was kind of like, ‘This is you?’ It’s really cool.”
Wyatt said his dad is “super humble” about his acting career. The mild-mannered Duane, whose last listed credit was in 2010, said he had mostly retired as an actor when Wyatt was young and never has been the sort to boast about his career.
But when Wyatt was young, his mother said she tried to get him and David to watch a number of his roles. But she said Wyatt and David, who is now 27 and played defensive tackle at California through 2016, had other things on their mind.
“I would sometimes run and tell the boys, ‘Hey I want you to see something, your dad’s on TV,’’’ said Inge Davis. “They were so funny. They were like, ‘Oh, we’re kind of watching Nickelodeon,’ or ‘‘We’re playing a game.’ …. They grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes, a very family-oriented community (in the Los Angeles area), and it wasn’t like they grew up with a Hollywood lifestyle.’’
Wyatt starred at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, where in 2014 he helped protect USA Today All-American and future NFL quarterback Josh Rosen and where he developed into a highly recruited offensive lineman. He eventually began to learn more about his father’s acting career.
“As I got older, when I asked, he started telling me about all the stuff that he has been in,’’ Wyatt said. “I found out right before I got to Ohio State that he was in 32 movies. I didn’t even know that. I’ve seen all the major ones like ‘The Program’ and ‘Beetlejuice’ and “Under Siege.’ It is definitely a pretty impressive career.’’
Now, Duane is looking forward to following Wyatt’s career. He’s planning to attend just about all of Minnesota’s games this season.
If Duane gets recognized in the stands, that won’t be a surprise.
“People all the time come up and recite lines from my movies,’’ Duane said. “’Kill em’ all.’ I get that one a lot.”
That was in “The Program,” from when Duane, who played a star linebacker for Eastern State University who suffered a career-ending knee injury, said before a big game, “Let’s open up a can of kick ass and kill ’em all, let the paramedics sort ’em out.”