But on Jan. 29, 1995, the paths of two East Central Alabama standouts crossed at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.
For Anniston’s Eric Davis it was as a player.
For Talladega’s Ronnie Baynes it was an official.
On Tuesday, their paths crossed once again as the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame announced the 2013 class of inductees.
Davis and Baynes are among eight to be inducted alongside current Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Also in the class are Forrest Blue Jr. (Auburn, NFL Football), Bill Jones (North Alabama, coaching/adminstrator); Bill Oliver (College, Pro coaching); Vickie Orr (Auburn, basketball); and Dannette Young Stone (Alabama A&M, Olympic track)
Baynes is fresh off winning the Art McNally Award, the highest honor for NFL officials. Having that alongside two Super Bowls — the other SB XXXIII — he said this was just as lofty an honor.
“It’s certainly the highlight of my life in sports,” Bynes said Tuesday from his Birmingham home. “ … I would have never dreamed of such.”
Baynes played at Talladega High through 1961 before going off to Auburn where he lettered in football and baseball. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, but after surgery preceding preseason camp, he failed to pass the mandatory physical.
He started coaching in the state’s ranks, but a short hiatus opened the door to a life of officiating, one he still works with today.
He said he went into his first game, 1971’s Oxford vs. Jacksonville — Bill Burgess’ first game with the Yellow Jackets — “very reluctantly.”
“I knew I wanted to do some baseball and basketball,” he said. “ … but Glenn Hawkins said he’d train me and teach me.”
That training took him from high school to the Southeastern Conference and later to the NFL, where today two of his three sons, Allen and Rusty, are NFL officials. Mark, his third son, officiates in Conference USA.
“It was just like it was as a player,” Baynes said, “you just strive to get better. Fortunately, I was able to carry it to its highest level.”
In addition to his two Super Bowls, Baynes served for eight years (2001-08) as the Supervisor of NFL officials and Director of Officiating Development for the league.
After a standout career at Anniston High, Davis helped lead Jacksonville State to an appearance in the Division II National Championship in 1989.
He was drafted in the second round of the 1990 NFL draft and went on to play 13 seasons in the league with four teams (San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions). He was a three-time Pro Bowler, and earned back-to-back nods in 1995 and 1996.
He is just one of two NFL players to have five or more interceptions in five consecutive seasons.
Davis currently serves as an analyst for the 49ers radio network and the NFL Network’s show, “NFL AM.” He was inducted into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Attempts by The Star to reach Davis were unsuccessful.
Assistant Managing Editor Bran Strickland: 256-235-3590. On Twitter @Bran_Strickland.