Thomas Davis awarded key to the City of Charlotte

CHARLOTTE – In a private meet-and-greet session with Charlotte City Council members Monday evening, linebacker Thomas Davisintroduced his Youth Leadership Academy to those gathered for the special occasion.

It was a big night for Davis, who received the key to the city moments later. But the event also served as the weekly meeting for the children of the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation and as another chance to positively impact their lives.

“I’m excited to have these kids here,” Davis told council members. “They sit in a classroom setting and hear me and our board members talk all the time about the importance of being a leader and of doing things the right way.

“Well, tonight is a true representation of what can happen if you do things the right way, of what can happen if you put in work and put in the extra that’s called for and the extra that’s not even called for.”

Again Monday, as was the case three weeks ago when Davis won the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, all eyes were on him. But more importantly to Davis, he could still see his challenging childhood in the eyes of the students his foundation assists.

“He’s not looking for awards,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “To understand it, all you have to do is understand where he’s from. Once you know that, you know these are things he truly wants to do. It’s impressive.”

Davis, who grew up in poverty-stricken rural Georgia, has grown into a leader on and off the football field and now yearns for similar success for the youth his foundation mentors. In recognition of his continuing efforts, the Charlotte City Council presented Davis with the most prestigious honor a city government can grant.

“Mr. Davis was selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 draft from the University of Georgia, and he’s made a major impact on and off the field. It’s his impact off the field, especially, tonight that we recognize,” Charlotte mayor Dan Clodfelter told those gathered for Monday’s city council meeting. “In recognition of Mr. Davis’ contributions and his extraordinary generosity, it is my pleasure at this point to present him on behalf of the city council with the key to the city, presented to you as an esteemed citizen and a trusted friend.”

After posing for pictures with his wife, four children and council members, Davis graciously accepted the honor, flanked by the children of his Youth Leadership Academy – the signature outreach program for his far-reaching foundation.

“Everything that we do in the community, all of the lives that we’ve been able to impact, it hasn’t been just me,” Davis said. “I’m the guy that gets the recognition, but there are so many others that put in countless hours to make sure that everything we do goes according to plan. My board members are huge in everything we do.

“I also want to take the time now to thank Mr. Jerry Richardson for bringing me to the city of Charlotte. In 2005 when I came here, I was a young 21-year-old who didn’t really know anything about the city, having only been here twice, but the city embraced me. It was a good feeling. It felt like home, and here I am now 10 years later, and Charlotte will forever be home.”

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Panthers’ Thomas Davis wins biggest honor of his career

By David Newton |

There were tears. There was a challenge to dare to be great. There was an embrace with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

If you didn’t know what Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis was all about before Saturday night, you did after watching him receive the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award at the fourth annual NFL Honors awards show.

Davis was overlooked in 2012 as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year after successfully returning from reconstructive ACL surgery on the same knee for a third time, something no other player in the league had done.

Thomas Davis

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsThe Panthers’ Thomas Davis said he wants the NFL to “be a village of guys that make a difference.”

He was shunned by the Pro Bowl the past two seasons because he plays in a 4-3 system that doesn’t put him in position to collect dozens of sacks as a 3-4 outside linebacker does.

But being recognized by the NFL for what he does off the field with his Youth Leadership Academy and the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation more than made up for that. As Davis told me earlier in the week, winning this award would be the “highest honor I’ve ever received as a player.”

The rest of the NFL world saw just how much it meant during a video in which Davis shared his story. It showed how he grew up in economically-challenged Shellman, Georgia, with a single mom, how he had to boil water to take a hot bath and run an extension cord from a neighbor’s house to have light.

Goodell called the video a powerful and motivational message. He said it showed “why Thomas Davis is the exceptional man that he is.”

The rest of the NFL world also saw what this award meant as a teary-eyed Davis thanked his wife, Kelly, who helped start his foundation in 2008.

“There’s a lot that I’ve had to deal with and she’s been there for me through everything I’ve gone through, injuries and everything,” Davis told the crowd in Phoenix. “So often in my career I’ve been the guy that came up just short. But receiving this award tonight signalizes and capitalizes everything I’ve tried to accomplish.”

Davis went on to congratulate the other two finalists — Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin — and the other 29 players that were nominated across the league.

Then he challenged the entire NFL to “dare to be different.”

“We are a village,” Davis said as he looked into the audience. “Let’s stand up and be a village of guys that make a difference. Let’s show these kids how much we care about them. Then give the media something positive to talk about instead of always bashing our league.”

The entire crowd stood and cheered as Davis tried to thank the Payton family.

Before leaving the stage Davis hugged Goodell, who has come under fire this season from the way he handled the domestic violence issues involving Baltimore running back Ray Rice and Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy.

I asked Davis by phone later to elaborate on his challenge to the league.

“There’s not enough media going to the guys that are doing the great things,” he said. “We had 32 guys that were nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, some of them you’ll never even hear about.”

Davis hopes the award helps more hear about his cause with underprivileged children, battered women and other causes with which he and his wife are involved.

He received a $50,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice from the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

“It’s a huge honor,” Davis said. “I just hope that I can motivate more kids and change lives more.”