There is a well known saying in English that says “third time’s a charm” or “third time lucky”. There is another one that says “three strikes and you are out”. So which of these opposing statements is true? For Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, both had their day in court. But the fact that he is still playing as a key part of a highly regarded defense means that something is going on that has allowed him to persevere through trial and difficulty. Today is the first of my features on players in the Conference Championship games. We shine the light on Thomas Davis and the remarkable journey that he has been on in his NFL career.
A first round pick (#14 overall) Davis has spent his whole career with the Panthers after they drafted him as a safety out of the University of Georgia – the only Division I college to offer him a scholarship. He became a starter in his second season and continued to start for the next 3 seasons, starting all 16 games each season. That brings us to 2009. As you can read in this article from Sports Spectrum, Davis was putting together another stellar season. But in the 7th game of the year, Davis tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). That wiped out the rest of his season, and put him on a long rehab process to regain the strength in his knee. Then in May, the Panthers were having some Organized Team Activities. Davis tore the ACL in the same knee. Davis first report to his wife, Kelly, was that he was done. But after talking it over and praying, Davis decided to rehab and try to get back to the field, despite another lost season, and more rehab to come. During this time, Davis shares that he knew that God was using this for a purpose. He says “God strategically does things for a reason. He did this because He knew I could handle it. What am I going to do now that this happened? Am I going to sulk and be disappointed and fade away, or am I going to come back stronger and work my butt off to get back on the field and play the game I’ve invested in and the game I love playing?”
So Davis worked hard to regain his strength and get ready to return to the field. And then 2 games in to the 2011 season, Davis faced strike three. He injured the ACL in the same knee yet again.
No player had ever come back from 3 ACL injuries to the same knee. (since Davis’ third injury, one more has made it – Terrell Thomas who I blogged about a couple years back) Davis settled in to thinking that his career was over. Three strikes and you are out. Davis decided to rehab again and try to see if the third time would be the charm that would allow him to return to the field and stay healthy. During this time, Davis had strong support from his wife, helping him rehab and taking care of him as through his pain. (you can read more about it in this story from panthers.com.) What could he learn through this time? How could God use these injuries to teach Davis something about God and about himself.
Each year, Sports Spectrum puts out a video featuring the faith story of an NFL player to show as a halftime alternative at Super Bowl outreach events that churches and ministries may put on. Thomas Davis is the player featured this season. Check out the trailer for this years “Power to Win” video
Here are my takeaways from Davis’ story:
1- No Strike Count – As mentioned earlier, the saying “Three strikes and you are out” didn’t apply to Davis’ ACL. He became the first pro athlete to return from 3 surgeries on the same knee to play again. Despite the temptation to quit, he kept persevering and rehabbing. He earned another chance. Likewise, God grants us endless chances to turn to Him and turn away from our sin. It is not a three strikes and you are out deal with Him either. The difference is that we don’t have to earn another chance from God. As long as we have breath, He will lovingly pursue us and show Himself to us. If you have ever thought that you have done too many bad things for God to love you or forgive you, it gives me great joy to tell you that it simply is not true.
2 –Third times’ the charm – With each ACL injury, it seemed like Davis’ luck was all bad. But with each ACL injury, Davis will tell you that God taught him something valuable. He learned lessons like the joys of fame and celebrity are fleeting, that it was important to be a good husband and that God was calling him to give back to the community. So in the end, not only did Davis’ injury heal each time, but Davis grew closer to God and God used his story and the lessons Davis was learning to point others to Christ.
As Davis and the Panthers move toward the NFC Championship game this week, Davis’ amazing story has an increased platform. But no matter what the outcome of this season, Davis’ amazing journey has encouraged many that God can do amazing things in our lives and He does them not for our fame but for His purposes.