Mike Davis still remembers the championships he won while playing at English Park and Grove Park as a member of the Bankhead Jaguars youth football team. He's excited to show a photo of a trophy, which he somehow still has, from when he was named the MVP of one of those championships. Davis remembers walking each day from where he lived at the Hollywood Court Developments to W.J. Scott Elementary School. He made some of his best memories in the school's cafeteria, library, and gymnasium.
But he also remembers the violence that surrounded him.
On his first day moving into the Hollywood Court Developments, there was a drive-by shooting. Instead of orange peels and energy drinks following his youth football games, there were routine shootings and arguments between spectators betting on games.
Davis smiles, and even laughs, when he talks about those things now, seemingly as a way to distance himself from the pain that comes with reliving those traumatic moments. The ever-present violence served as a daily reminder for Davis of who he didn't want to be.
"It made me want to be different," Davis said. "I used to tell myself, 'I don't want to be another statistic.' I wanted to live better. Not just for myself, but for my family. I wanted everything to be different. I didn't want to be a typical person on the block. I wanted to be somebody different. I wanted everything to change."
Now in his seventh NFL season, things have certainly changed for Davis. Money is no longer an issue for him and his family, his daughter does not have to worry about constant violence as he did, and he is playing for his hometown team.
While Davis is living the life he always dreamed about, he hasn't forgotten about his community.
Through his charity, the Mike Davis Foundation of Hope, Davis has hosted a free youth football camp each summer since 2018 at Frederick Douglass High School in West Atlanta. In Davis' first camp as a Falcon, over 200 kids participated. Davis also hosted a back-to-school shopping event at Walmart for local students in need of school supplies.
Davis is committed to helping in the community because he wants to be the person he never had growing up.
Not just someone who donates money or shows up every once in a while. Davis wants to be a resource for kids growing up like he did. A living example that kids can see, ask for advice and understand that their circumstance does not determine who they can be.
"I want to impact them life-wise and let them know, 'Your life matters,'" Davis said. "'What you do can determine the future, so think outside the box. You don't have to live in a small box because of where you grew up and how things are going in life. Never give up."
Because of his efforts serving the community, Davis was selected as the Falcons representative for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The winner receives $250,000 donated to the charity of their choice, and all 31 nominees receive up to $40,000 donated to their charity.