Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SPORST STORY >> Ex-Trojan gives uplifting message

Leader sportswriter

Former professional football player Keith Davis paid a visit to Cabot High School on Thursday to share his message of hard work, persistence and inspiration.

Davis was a standout linebacker at the University of Southern California, and after leading the Trojans in tackles and being named to the Pac-10 All-Conference team, he signed a professional football contract with the New York Giants in 1988.

A career-ending knee injury during the 1988 preseason put an end to Davis’ playing days, but he found his second calling soon after as a motivational speaker.

Davis has traveled around the world since then, and has spoken in about 10,000 schools in over 51 countries, spreading his message of making the right choices and working hard in the classroom to youths everywhere.

A lot of Davis’ motivation to do such work came from personal experiences of overcoming adversity, whether it was on the field or off, particularly in the classroom.

“I went from remedial reading status to graduating from USC with the team’s highest overall grade point average,” said Davis. “I was Academic All-Conference and an Academic All-American. So, what I say to the young people is you don’t have to be great to get started, you just have to get started to be great.

“It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. I started speaking in LA (Los Angeles) and at USC, and next thing you know I’ve been to 51 countries and probably spoken in about 10,000 schools.”

Davis is part of a big movement by pro athletes, current and former, that have come together to spread a positive message to today’s youth in hopes of inspiring future generations to avoid things like substance abuse and to succeed in spite of whatever adversity they may be faced with along the journey.

“We have about 20 other players that speak with us – guys from the Patriots, Packers and Colts. We all have a similar vision, which is to help young people get inspired, encouraged – no more drug abuse, no more alcohol abuse, no more teen suicide.

“And even though they may be dealing with issues of depression and their parents are getting divorced and everything, you never know in the midst of it all what difference you can make. That’s the gist of the program, but we have a lot of fun with it and keep it exciting. It’s just something that we decided to pursue and it’s been great.”

Davis, along with his co-speaker Clarence Lee, who played for legendary coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State and is still the strongest player in Florida State football history (650-pound bench press), kept the students entertained with a few strength demonstrations, some of which included Lee doing push-ups with some of Cabot High’s biggest kids standing on his back.

The fun, though, was never overshadowed by the message of inspiration, which Davis and Lee referred to as ‘the second half’.

“By the time I was in 10th grade, I was at my 19th different school,” Davis said. “I had so many challenges at school and family challenges, but people encouraged me not to quit and not to give up, and I call that ‘the second half’.

“I’m living a great second half now. That teacher, that coach, that counselor at my school encouraged me and I said ‘I want to be a positive voice’. I just want to be a dream-maker and a positive voice, and it’s just a real good way to spread the message and get people excited.”