In parts one and two of Don Davis’ interview we followed his journey from living a careless lifestyle of indulgence as a young NFL player to becoming a man of commitment and faith. In this final piece, we’ll learn his secret to gaining the respect of others and his advice to those current “Bad Boys” and all others who wish to have a more meaningful and fulfilling life. The interview begins where we left off:
Don Davis – I said Lord I know I botched this first one (marriage), and I know that man is not meant to be alone and neither am I. At that point I prayed and met my wife a month after I prayed that prayer. My wife Yannette and I are going on 12 years of marriage.
We met then got involved in PAO (Pro Athletes Outreach). We attended our first PAO conference in Dallas. Dr. Tony Evans was one of the speakers.
There is one thing he said that I continue to quote now and I will never forget. He said, “I can tell you where your life will be in five years based on three things: the words you speak, the company you keep and the books you read.” Then he turned it in to the most important book, which is the Bible. So I left from there and made a commitment to read the word every single day.
That’s been the biggest part of what makes me who I am. I tell them when they respect me, it’s not me but God who lives in me, because of me immersing myself in the word, the company that I try to keep and the books that I’m reading.
CHANGING HIS LANGUAGE AND HIS MUSIC
DD – In ’99, I give my life to the Lord. In 2000 I get married. 2001 I attend a PAO conference. During that season though, we had gone to the St. Louis Rams and another brother, Aeneas Williams comes to me after practice and says, “You’re faithful, you’re a great dude, you have great questions, but what’s up with your language?” I wouldn’t have been ready for that in 2000. It wasn’t that I was just a sailor, but you know on the football field I justified it. You know, this is a violent game! Surely, God understands. He took me to Mathew 12, which (says), “…Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” He told me, “You don’t have a cussing problem you have a heart problem.”
The next day I burned every CD I had and I had a ton of them. I was a connoisseur. I played it loud and hard and the more cussing in it the better. I didn’t realize it was impacting my soul. I tell you, I burned every single one of them and it was like a weight lifting off of me. That next year in the 2002 off-season Kurt Warner, Aeneas Williams and O. J. Brigance were spiritual mentors of mine. Life couldn’t have gotten any better. My daughter had been born and life was clicking on all cylinders.
HIS TURN TO LEAD
Davis’ contract with the St. Louis Rams was up after that season and he thought his career would be done after playing for 6 years in the NFL. He had come to accept that fact but was then picked up by the New England Patriots.
DD – I am automatically thrust into a leadership position. If St. Louis was the church in Israel, New England was Sodom and Gomorrah. It was spiritually dry. It was awful. But it challenged me to step up and to not depend on those other men. I didn’t realize how much I was depending on them, even though I was doing my own personal growth. Having them around me, I could bounce ideas off of (them), which I needed. This now forced me to be accountable. Eventually, I ended up finishing out my career there, playing there four years and being looked at as the spiritual leader of the team by the coaches and the players.
KA – Was it difficult to go into the Patriots organization being the spiritual man that you are and having to step inside “Sodom and Gomorrah?” What did they think of you? Were they a little hesitant about your faith at first?
DD – They were. People always are until you live it. They’ve got to see you living it. You can’t go in speaking it all the time. Some guys are great. They know how to speak. They’re very well versed. They come in preaching to everybody. But I remember what Tony Dungy did. He never preached one sermon to me, but his life was definite and I have never forgotten about it. So I took that same approach and still take that same approach. I went there living a life above reproach, doing the little things and looking for a door of opportunity to speak to a guy about where he is in life. That opens the door to ask him, “Where are you spiritually?” or “If you weren’t a football player, what would you be doing?”
ADVICE FOR OTHER “BAD BOYS”
KA – What would you say to the readers, especially players, who find themselves where you were when you first entered the league? They’re basically in a place where they are living a life without restraint and not really thinking about how this lifestyle will affect them in the long run.
DD – I tell every person I know young or old, man or woman… If they’re at a place and they really don’t know themselves and they’re in the world and don’t know where they are in life and what they believe, then take one or two days at least 24 straight hours and take all of your inputs away; radio, television, phone, and get by yourselves. Within an hour, the Lord is going to start revealing some things to you. Take a pen and paper and write down where your thoughts (go). You will be shocked and amazed. When you just stop and are silent and you block out the world, and your mind starts to turn, it’s amazing where it will go. You (usually) don’t really think about it because you’ve got so many other distractions. But when you do that…I believe eventually something will kick in where you’re going to see a pattern and that pattern is really who you are and where you’re at. You’ve got to look at that and see if that is the person you want to be forever. Right now, that person may suffice and that’s you, but is that going to hold up in 10, 20 30 years? Typically, (the answer) is going to be no. Once it’s no, now the question is going to be, “What are you going to do to change that?”
I always point them to God, but before a person can respect our God they have to respect us for being the example of what He represents. I always say, “There is nobody who is going to trust Christ until they first learn to trust the Christian.” Hopefully I and the other men who are around are that light in the NFL. Once those players do have that moment with just themselves, their thoughts and God, then its going to cause those questions and hopefully there’s somebody on their team that they will get with or somebody they respect and then they’ll be able to get their life right.
Don Davis is a regional director of the NFL Players Association and the director of NFL Programs for Pro Athletes Outreach. You can learn more about Davis at www.RealDonDavis.com.
Kim Anthony can be contacted through www.KimAnthony.net or on Twitter @RealKimAnthony.