Not only is Thomas Davis an incredibly talented football player, he is also a molder of men, a game-changer off the field and is the award winner of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis knows a little something about dealing with adversity. Many NFL players have suffered an ACL tear and endured the grueling rehabilitation to try to return to the field. One ACL tear is bad enough, but Davis actually tore his ACL on three separate occasions between 2009 and 2011. No NFL player to that point had ever returned from more than two ACL tears. Davis aimed to be the first and hoped to be an inspiration to others. And inspire others he did. Not only did Davis make it all the way back, quite an accomplishment within itself, he returned with a fury to post three consecutive seasons of 100+ tackles.
While the recovery and subsequent return to the top of his profession provide plenty of reason to hold up Davis as a symbol of courage and dedication, his work off the field is even more impressive and admirable. Davis and his wife Kelly lead the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation, a non-profit that is dedicated to providing and promoting free programs for more than 2,000 underprivileged children and their families with the goal of improving their quality of life.
Courtesy of the foundation’s website, the mission statement describes the overall goals:
“The foundation is built on these principles and strives to encourage students to develop the essential life and social skills that will make them leaders of tomorrow. Through education, leadership development and volunteerism; TDDDF allows students to see the potential of their dreams in action…”
Two college scholarships are annually awarded to graduating seniors who have completed the Youth Leadership Academy program offered through TDDDF. Annual programs focused on giving back are also a staple of the foundation, including:
- Back-to-school supply giveaways
- Thanksgiving meal for a local women’s shelter
- Christmas gift giveaway for underprivileged children in Charlotte, NC, Davis’ hometown in Georgia and parts of South Carolina.
Davis was honored for his philanthropic efforts in January at the NFL Honors awards ceremony. He was awarded the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, an award he has been nominated for on four occasions and a finalist for in 2013. The award recognizes not only a player’s excellence on the field but their off-the-field community service as well. The winner receives a $50,000 donation in his name, courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide, to the charity of his choice.
Undoubtedly humbled and overwhelmed by the honor, Davis delivered an impassioned speech. He acknowledged his childhood and the struggles that helped define the man he is today:
“Just knowing the struggles of some parents. I grew up in a single-parent household, and my mom struggled to raise me and my sister, and I didn’t want these kids to go through what we had to go through. I tried to reach out and give back to them as much as I can to make sure that those kids don’t go through those struggles,” he said.
After viewing the video package that accompanied the presentation, Davis reflected on what the honor meant to him as he accepted the award:
“I mean, just being here tonight is something that’s positive for me. Just knowing where all I’ve come from. Sitting there looking at the video, seeing my hometown and seeing all the stuff that I’ve been able to overcome throughout my career. I’m just excited to stand before you guys tonight,” said Davis.
For his incredible dedication in returning from three career threatening injuries to excelling at the game of football, Davis has the undying admiration of his fans, organization, teammates and peers. For his amazing off-the-field contributions that touch so many lives, Davis deserves the admiration and honors that go along with being chosen as the NFL’s Man of the Year. In a sport filled with negative headlines of athletes’ misdeeds both on and off the field, Davis presents a shining example that there are men of great character that play this game we love as well.
We salute you, Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers, for being one of the NFL’s good guys.
Photo Credit: Flickr/kevin813
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