Alumnus and Former Chicago Bear Sees Super Bowl Coaches as Role Models
CHICAGO, IL (February 2, 2007) – Former Chicago Bears standout receiver Wendell Davis, a student in North Park University's Gains of Adult Learning (GOAL)
program, says the character shown by the Bears through adversity, as well as the Christian faith of both Super Bowl coaches, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy, can serve as models for others to follow.
Davis played six seasons for the Bears who drafted him in the first round during the 1988 draft and was the team's leading receiver for three straight years. Bill Tobin, the man who drafted him, once said Davis had "vacuum cleaner hands."
Davis' time with the Bears ended, however, following a single play in which he tore both ACLs. USA Today
called the injury the 11th costliest to a franchise in history. Undaunted, Davis played several years for the Indianapolis Colts and finished with the San Diego Chargers before retiring in 1998.
Well-acquainted with adversity, Davis has watched the Bears handle intense criticism despite the team's 15-3 season. Quarterback Rex Grossman has been in the media's crosshairs for much of the year due to his wildly inconsistent play.
Being a wide receiver can be extra frustrating when the quarterback is having a bad day, but Davis says, "It's your responsibility to encourage your teammate and help the guy get through it. When you play, it's about the team, and not the individual."
"The old adage that there is no 'I' in team is correct," Davis says. "The whole team hurts once people start going off and doing their own thing."
That lesson is one Davis tries to instill in young men and women through his work with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "You can always refer to the gospel, and show it refers to the community," he explains.
Davis says he is excited that both Super Bowl XLI coaches are Christians, which will lead to more erosion of a continuing stereotype that Christian athletes are "too soft" and can't be competitive.
"A lot of coaches used to think that if you were a Christian, you were weak," Davis says. "It's just amazing how God is working this out."
Ironically, Davis' life in the NFL led him to embrace the faith he had been exposed to as a child but which he says he never saw lived. "When I got to the pros, I really knew what my faith was all about."
His newfound commitment came from being around teammates such as Al Harris and the legendary linebacker Mike Singletary, both of whom were open about their beliefs. "No one could ever say they were weak," he says.
Davis also is excited that both coaches are the first African-Americans to coach in the Super Bowl. "It's just amazing," he says. "It's very special to me."
He adds, "For so long, I've heard and I've seen these guys struggle to be coaches. To see where they are now, I'm so happy and proud. I can't think of two other guys who it would be better to happen to." He believes their success will offer more opportunities for other minorities, as well.
With the same determination he showed returning from his knee injuries, Davis is improving his own opportunities. He owns two sports barbershop franchises in Illinois, but is looking to make a career change. Next month, he will finish his last class on the way to getting a bachelor's degree in organizational management at North Park.
He has been able to complete the degree through North Park's GOAL program, which enables students with incomplete college credits to continue on and earn bachelor's degrees. Davis says he didn't complete a general studies degree during his four years at Louisiana State University before being drafted, in part because he didn't have his priorities in the right order.
The GOAL program, which Davis has participated in for two years, has been important for him on a number of levels. "It has shown me I can finish what I started." He adds, "I have kids now, and it helps me to show they can finish what they start."
As he gets set to graduate, Davis is exploring several options for the future, including a return to the NFL so he can work with the League's player development program. The program works with players to finish degrees and prepare for a life after football.
The idea that players are set for life is not true, says Davis. "That's a big myth out there." Most players who start in the game have careers less than two years, and only a few of all players make salaries they can live on when they are done on the field.
Davis hopes that people of all professions who have not earned their college degree would consider returning to school to complete what they started. "You can always go back and finish up," he says.
To learn more about the GOAL program, contact Jennifer Hulting, assistant director of admissions, at (773) 244-5508 or click here