When Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis speaks about making it to another Super Bowl, two things happen. First, you see what winning means for some players. It is not simply just a job or a paycheck, but nourishment for his soul. Second, you realize that Thomas Davis isn’t motivated to win solely for himself, but for two other important Carolina Panthers figures.
Two figures, one present and one remembered, Jerry Richardson and Sam Mills.
Winning one for the Big Cat
“We want to put a Super Bowl ring on Mr. Richardson’s finger” Davis said after Monday’s practice. “It is a promise that I made to him, and I am trying to stay true to that promise.”
Davis spoke about Jerry Richardson more like a son would a father than a NFL player would a NFL owner. As Davis began to speak, his emotions began to pour out with his voice. This was not just locker room talk, this was something else, something more. Every once in a while the walls of being a professional athlete are taken down and we get a candid glimpse of the man that wears the jersey. This was one of those times.
“When you look at Mr. Richardson, and what he has been and what he has done for me as a player, I mean, that is the only thing he doesn’t have” Thomas Davis said of a Super Bowl title. “For me as a player that has been here as long as I have been here, you want to be a part of that group that brings that to him.”
Richardson’s faith in Thomas Davis never wavered, even through three ACL surgeries. Davis has not forgotten.
“Knowing he was that person that believed in me, he was giving me another shot after everything I went through personally. It is something that I want to be a part of.”
On the significance of 51
51 is not just the latest number in a series of Super Bowls for Thomas Davis. The number also represents Sam Mills, a cornerstone figure for the entire Carolina Panthers organization. Thomas Davis is the only remaining Carolina Panthers player that has been around long enough to truly appreciate what Sam Mills did, and continues to do, for the Panthers franchise. The symbolism of winning Super Bowl 51 in honor of Sam Mills who wore jersey number 51 is not lost on Thomas Davis.
“That is definitely something that we have talked about.” Davis said. “With me being around here for so long and understanding what Sam Mills meant to this football team, what he still means to this football team, what better Super Bowl to win than Superbowl 51? A lot of fans have even termed it the “Keep Pounding” Super Bowl.”
Can Thomas Davis envision a better scenario than handing Jerry Richardson the Lombardi Trophy for Super Bowl 51, a number with such meaningful Panthers significance? “I cannot imagine” Davis said. “I cannot imagine a better scenario and being able to do that in the city that this team originally lost their first Superbowl in.”
And what if another player wanted to hand Jerry Richardson the Lombardi Trophy should that day come?
“It will be really tough for someone else to claim that honor on that day.”