Vontae Davis became the butt of 10,000 jokes on Sunday when it was learned that at halftime of the Buffalo Bills’ home-opening loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Davis took off his uniform, put on his street clothes, and retired.
He released a statement on social media a couple of hours after the game ended, saying it wasn’t “how I pictured retiring from the NFL” but that while he was on the field it “hit me hard and fast: I shouldn’t be out there anymore.”
On Wednesday, Davis spoke to retired fellow cornerback Domonique Foxworth and gave more of his side of things.
‘I felt normal’
He said when he woke up at the team hotel on Sunday morning, “I felt normal” and followed the same routine he’d gotten used to: driving to the stadium he listened to music; at the stadium he hydrated and stretched and put on his headphones and recited Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”) twice.
But when the game started, Davis said, “I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like myself.”
Late in the second quarter, he had his moment of clarity.
“I went to the bench after that series and it just hit me,” Davis said. “I don’t belong on that field anymore.” He told John Butler, the Bills’ defensive backs coach, “I’m done,” and while Butler didn’t reply verbally, Lafayette Pitts played the last couple of snaps before halftime in Davis’ place.
‘Football is not for me’
Davis explained that in that moment he realized, “Football is not for me” and that he had become an outsider in the game he’d long loved. Over the years, he’d done what almost all football players do: he played through injuries, he did what was best for the team.
The Bills’ team chaplain and director of player development tried to talk to Davis.
“I didn’t expect them to understand,” he said. “That moment was shocking to me as well.”
He had no intention of hurting teammates — linebacker Lorenzo Alexander called it “completely disrespectful” — but doesn’t regret even the unheard of timing of his decision.
“In that moment, my intuition was telling me I don’t belong on that field anymore,” Davis said.
He texted his wife, Megan, “Babe I’m done. I’m retiring.” and she calmly asked if he wanted her to meet him at their house. A while later, he talked to his brother, Vernon, a tight end with Washington.
“Vernon was emotional. And surprised, but he’s always supported every decision I’ve made and understood,” Davis said.
Davis also indicated that his faith in God helped him accept an otherwise abrupt and difficult decision.
“I’m at peace with myself and my family,” he continued. “I choose to be grateful to God for allowing me to play the game that I have loved as a boy until I turned 30 years old. I choose to be grateful to God for being a part of the NFL and making lifelong friends over the last decade. There were roadblocks and pitfalls along the way, but I am grateful to God for all of it, because He doesn’t promise any of us an easy journey.”
‘Leaving was therapeutic, bro’
He’s 30 years old and beginning a life without football, and while others assumed there’s something wrong with Davis mentally, he’s looking forward to what’s next.
“I feel great. I haven’t felt like this in … well, in my whole life,” he said.
Shortly after their phone interview ended, Davis sent Foxworth a text:
“And on a final note, Fox, leaving was therapeutic, bro. I left everything the league wanted me to be, playing for my teammates while injured, the gladiator mentality, it all just popped. And when it popped, I just wanted to leave it all behind. So that’s why I don’t care what people say. That experience was personal and not meant for anyone else to understand. It was me cold turkey leaving behind an identity that I carried with me for so long.”
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Davis’ Twitter bio says only, “Live with no regrets!!”
At first glance, Davis can easily be considered a quitter, very selfish, and a guy that really let his team down. After all, we value perseverance and the “never give up mentality” in sports and life.
To see someone simply quit in the middle of a game doesn’t seem justifiable because we understand the concept of finishing what we start, staying committed, and sacrificing for the team.
While that is true, isn’t it Davis’ call to make if his decision was based on a deep conviction that he couldn’t go back out there?
It’s fair to say he could have handled it a lot better, but we have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he determined this to be the right choice for him and his family.
This situation isn’t exclusive to the NFL because each of us makes regular decisions to keep going or to quit. I’m passionate about not giving up, but I also believe we can be so determined to never quit that we continue to do something that deep down we know we should stop.
Of course, we keep the faith and persevere during trials and live up to our commitments the best we can, but there are other times that we must be willing to let go, stop an activity, or leave a situation.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to live surrendered lives dependant on His leading and guiding, and oftentimes, this means making the tough choice.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
As we trust Him, He will ask us to step out in faith, and that may mean others will question our decision or cause us to quit one thing in order to start something else.
Others may want us to keep going, but God may be protecting us by leading us away or calling us to do something different. Only He truly knows what’s next.
In these moments we can have a similar prayer to the one found in Jeremiah 10:23-24 – NLT): “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle…”
A surrendered life to Jesus means quitting our old life in order to embrace the new life He has for us. It’s an exciting adventure that requires a daily commitment to go where He wants us to go.
We must “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! (1 Chronicles 16:11 – ESV). When we do, we’ll walk away from our own plans toward His wonderful and perfect will.
- Shalise Manza Young | Yahoo Sports and Bryce Johnson |unpackinit.com and other wire services