Thomas Davis is one of the leading contenders for Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsman of the Year. You can see the full list and the entire series of essays that make the argument for each candidate here.
It’s Monday and Thomas Davis is spending it like he spends all Mondays without a game: convening with underprivileged Charlotte-area middle-schoolers in hopes of inspiring them to reach their full potential academically and philanthropically. Davis’s Youth Leadership Academy, which annually awards two college scholarships, is the signature program of his Defending Dreams Foundation, yet it’s only a glimpse into Davis’s outsized heart. He’s always giving. Like two weeks ago when Davis partnered with a local food bank and put together Thanksgiving bags to feed 2,000 local families.
The Panthers linebacker, now in his 11th season, is best known as a stalwart of the community, and the NFL recognized his service by honoring him with the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award in January. Davis is driven by an impoverished childhood spent in a single-parent home where Christmas presents were a distant dream and self-blame was omnipresent. Yet there’s an innate nature to Davis that transcends his upbringing.