Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Davidson was the son of Avis (née Wheat) and Benjamin Earl Franklin, Senior. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, but did not play football in high school; because of his height (6 ft 8 in (2. 03 m)), basketball and track were more to his liking. While attending junior college at East Los Angeles College, he was spotted by the football coach and asked to join the team. He was subsequently recruited to play at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1959, where he flourished as a member of consecutive Rose Bowl-winning teams under head coach Jim Owens and gained entry into professional football.
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