Thomas Davis (American football)

Thomas Davis
Davis with the Carolina Panthers in 2014
No. 58 – Carolina Panthers
Position: Linebacker
Personal information
Born: (1983-03-22) March 22, 1983
Shellman, Georgia
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school: Cuthbert (GA) Randolph County
College: Georgia
NFL Draft: 2005 / Round: 1 / Pick: 14
Career history
Roster status: Suspended
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2017
Total tackles: 1,017
Sacks: 28.0
Forced fumbles: 18
Fumble recoveries: 9
Interceptions: 13
Defensive touchdowns: 1
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Thomas Antonio Davis Sr.[1] (born March 22, 1983) is an American football linebacker for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). Davis played college football for the University of Georgia, and was recognized as a consensus All-American. He was drafted by the Panthers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. In 2012, Davis became the first professional athlete to return to play in his top sporting league after three anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

Early years

Davis was born in Shellman, Georgia. He attended Randolph-Clay High School in Cuthbert, Georgia,[2] where he was a four-sport star in football, basketball, baseball, and track. In football, he played running back, wide receiver, quarterback, defensive end, defensive back, punter, kicker, and kick returner at various times throughout his career. As a junior, he averaged 30 yards per punt, had two kickoff returns, one punt return, and one fumble return for touchdowns. As a senior, he earned Class AA All-State honorable mention by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia Sports Writers Association (GSWA) after rushing for 1,032 yards, leading the region in scoring with 108 points in the regular season.[3]

In addition to football, Davis played baseball and ran track, where he qualified for the GHSAAA State T&F Championships for the 100-meter dash, placing 6th with a time of 11.1 seconds, and the 400 relay, finishing in 43.98 seconds.[4] In the agility tests, he ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash, had a 355-pound bench press, 520-pound squat, 324-pound hang clean and 34-inch vertical jump.


Davis was regarded by many as one of the finest athletes ever from the state of Georgia, but due to the small size of his school, his chances for exposure were relatively low. He was not highly recruited out of high school and was only offered a scholarship to one Division I college, which he accepted to become a member of the Georgia Bulldogs.

College career

Davis received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Georgia, where he played for coach Mark Richt's Georgia Bulldogs football team from 2002 to 2004. Following his sophomore season in 2003, he earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) honors. He was recognized as a first-team All-SEC selection and a consensus first-team All-American after his junior season in 2004. In 39 career games, he was effective as both a rush linebacker and a free safety, recording 272 tackles, 18 for a loss, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions, six forced fumbles, and nine fumble recoveries. He majored in consumer economics.

Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad
6 ft 1 in
(1.85 m)
230 lb
(104 kg)
10 in
(0.25 m)
4.52 s 1.64 s 2.71 s 4.01 s 7.10 s 36 12 in
(0.93 m)
9 ft 7 in
(2.92 m)
All values from NFL Combine except 40 time from Pro Day[5]

Carolina Panthers

Davis was selected in the first round (14th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft. Even though he was picked as a safety in the 2005 NFL Draft, he was converted to linebacker during his rookie year. In his debut season he played in 16 games making one start. He made an impact in the December 4 home game against the Atlanta Falcons, when he was used as a quarterback spy to contain Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Using his speed and benefiting from great play from other members of the defense, Davis helped the Panthers beat the Vick-led Falcons for the first time in franchise history. Vick was held to 171 yards passing and was sacked five times for a loss totaling 36 yards.[6] Davis finished the season with 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In the 2006 season, he started in all 14 games that he played in recording 88 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In the 2007 season, he started all 16 games for the first time in his career. He finished the season with 88 tackles and three sacks.

In the 2008 season, Davis had a career year. He started in all 16 games for the second year in a row and he recorded 113 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and forced 2 fumbles.[7]

Davis was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list with an injured right knee on October 31, 2010.

On September 18, 2011, Davis tore his ACL for the third time in three years. No NFL player – or professional athlete of any kind – had ever recovered and returned to play in the NFL or in their sports league after three ACL tears. He stated at the time that he would become the first and hoped to be an inspiration to others.[8]

In March 2012, Thomas Davis restructured his contract to save the Panthers approximately $3.8 million in cap space. The Panthers were reported to be tight on cap space going into the 2012 season.[9]

Davis returned to play for the Panthers in 2012, fulfilling his declaration to return to the NFL after a third ACL injury.[8] He recorded 105 tackles, an interception, and two forced fumbles in just 12 starts.

2013 season

After three years of injuries, Davis started all 16 games and recorded a career-high 123 tackles and four sacks, in addition to two interceptions and a forced fumble. He was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month of November and won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week during week 6. He played alongside Chase Blackburn and Luke Kuechly to help Carolina achieve a second-ranked defense.

2014 season

Through the first five weeks of the 2014 season, Pro Football Focus rated Davis as the best 4-3 outside linebacker in coverage.[10] In the must-win finale at Atlanta, Davis returned a fumble 33 yards to set up a crucial touchdown that started the rout of the Falcons. The Panthers won the game 34-3, becoming the first team in the NFC South to win back-to-back division titles and sending the Panthers into the playoffs for the second year in a row, the first time in franchise history.[11] Davis' leadership, play, and consistency was a big contributor in these achievements, along with those same attributes found in Kuechly and tight end Greg Olsen. In the Panthers wild-card playoff matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, Davis was a part of a stifling defense that set an NFL record for fewest yards allowed in a playoff game, limiting the Cardinals to just 78 total yards and forcing three turnovers.[12] According to Pro Football Focus, Davis was the best defensive player on the field, registering seven tackles while also grading out as the best player in coverage for the Panthers, showcasing his roots as a safety.[13] For the season, Davis was among the league leaders in pass coverage linebackers allowing just 7.1 yards per reception.[14] On January 31, 2015, Davis was named the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year by the NFL, recognizing his off-the-field community service work.[15]

2015 season

On June 15, 2015, Davis signed a two-year contract extension.[16] In 2015, Davis changed the back of his jersey from "Davis" to "Davis Sr" at the request of his son.[17] Davis continued his outstanding play during the start of the 2015 NFL season, recording 25 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble through just the first three games. The next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Davis recorded 11 tackles and 1 interception in a 37-23 victory. Davis played very well during the Panthers Sunday Night victory over the Philadelphia Eagles recording a season high 13 tackles. Through the first 15 weeks of the 2015 NFL season, Davis set career highs in sacks (5.5) and interceptions (3). For his efforts, Davis was named to the 2016 Pro Bowl, a rare honor to an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.[18][19] Davis finished the regular season with 105 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 4 interceptions. He was named to the AP All-Pro First Team.[20] During the Divisional Round Playoffs, another showdown against Seattle, Davis secured the Panthers win by catching the Seahawks onside kick attempt with 1:12 left in the game, sending the Panthers into the NFC Championship Game.[21] It was Davis' second onside kick recovery of the season, the first coming against the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving night game.[22] Davis returned to the NFC Championship game for the first time since his rookie season in 2005, the only active Panther to have played in both Conference Championship games.[23] Davis was knocked out of the Conference win in the second quarter with a broken arm, and finished the game with six tackles. He vowed to return for the Super Bowl and went into surgery early the following morning on the arm to uphold that promise.[24] Davis played in Super Bowl 50. In the game, he recorded seven tackles, but the Panthers fell to the Denver Broncos by a score of 24–10.[25][26] According to Pro Football Focus, Davis had the second-highest coverage grade of any linebacker in the NFL behind only teammate, Luke Kuechly.[27] He was ranked 54th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.[28]

2016 season

Davis started all 16 games, recording 106 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. He was named to his second straight Pro Bowl, and was ranked 89th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017.[29]

2017 season

On August 15, 2017, Davis signed a one-year contract extension with the Panthers through the 2018 season.[30] On November 3, Davis was fined $48,620 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Adam Humphries in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[31] On December 18, 2017, Davis was suspended two games after an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit to Packers wide receiver Davante Adams which caused a concussion.[32] The next day, his suspension was reduced to one game after an appeal.[33]

2018 season

On January 12, 2018, Davis declared that the 2018 NFL season would be his last one.[34] On April 6, 2018, Davis was suspended the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.[35]

Career statistics

Regular season

2005CAR 161383171.50----------20
2006CAR 14148869191.56----------20
2007CAR 16168872163.05100.00021
2008CAR 161611392213.56----------21
2009CAR 776148131.5522412.024000
2010CAR ------------------------00
2011CAR 2212660.00----------01
2012CAR 151210570350.03100.00021
2013CAR 161612385384.072-2-1.0-1010
2014CAR 151510066342.53----------21
2015CAR 161610575305.574225.522--41
2016CAR 161610673332.5433511.731012
2017CAR 15157652242.50----------01


2005CAR 306601.0----------------
2008CAR 111091------------------
2013CAR 11844------------------
2014CAR 22161061.0----------------
2015CAR 3318108------------------
2017CAR 11440------------------

Personal life

Davis is married to Kelly Davis and has four children.[36] He is an Evangelical Christian.[37][38] Davis' cousin, Robert Davis, is a wide receiver for the Washington Redskins.[39]


  1. "Panthers LB Thomas Davis adding 'Sr.' to jersey, at request of his son". charlotteobserver. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-02. Retrieved 2009-02-18.
  3. "".
  4. "Claxton boys finish third in state track meet - - Savannah Morning News".
  5. "- ,  : 2005 NFL Draft Scout Player Profile".
  6. {}
  7. {} Stats courtesy of
  8. 1 2 Tomlinson, Tommy (December 26, 2013). "You can't keep Thomas Davis down". Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  9. Horner, Tyler. "Carolina Panthers Free Agency: Tracking 2012 Signings, Targets and Rumors". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  10. "News and Analysis for NFL and Fantasy Football - Pro Football Focus".
  11. "Panthers vs. Falcons - Game Recap - December 28, 2014 - ESPN".
  12. "Cardinals vs. Panthers - Game Recap - January 3, 2015 - ESPN".
  13. "Panthers 27 Cardinals 16: Handing Out the Grades".
  14. "News and Analysis for NFL and Fantasy Football - Pro Football Focus".
  15. "Thomas Davis named Walter Payton Man of the Year".
  16. Wesseling, Chris (June 15, 2015). "Thomas Davis, Panthers reach two-year extension". Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  17. Strickland, Bryan (August 1, 2015). "Senior moment for Thomas Davis". Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  18. "Panthers have NFL-best 10 players selected for Pro Bowl". December 23, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  19. "Thomas Davis, Team Record 10 Panthers Named to Pro Bowl". 22 December 2015.
  20. "2015 All-Pro team: Analysis of the first-team roster".
  21. "Thomas Davis onside kick recovery".
  22. "Panthers LB Thomas Davis makes 'hands team' play of day vs. Seattle".
  23. "Davis Finally Returning to NFC Championship".
  24. Gantt, Darin (25 January 2016). "Thomas Davis having surgery on broken arm this morning".
  25. "Super Bowl 50 - Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers - February 7th, 2016". Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  26. "Super Bowl 50 - National Football League Game Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  27. "News and Analysis for NFL and Fantasy Football - Pro Football Focus".
  28. "'Top 100 Players of 2016': No. 54 Thomas Davis".
  29. "'Top 100 Players of 2017': No. 89 Thomas Davis".
  30. Strickland, Bryan (August 15, 2017). "Thomas Davis signs contract extension".
  31. Person, Joseph. "Panthers LB Thomas Davis blasts NFL after he's fined $48K for hit on Bucs WR". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  32. Sessler, Marc (December 18, 2017). "Thomas Davis suspended two games for hit on Adams".
  33. "Thomas Davis' suspension reduced to one game". December 19, 2017.
  34. "Carolina LB Davis announces retirement following 2018 season". Associated Press. January 12, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  35. "Thomas Davis violates PED policy, will miss four games". April 6, 2018.
  36. "At Home with Thomas Davis and family". Archived from the original on 2016-01-26.
  37. "Chosen: Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis is making the most of his time on, off the field".
  38. "Panthers Linebacker Wins Bart Starr Award: Christ Is My Leader".
  39. "Robert Davis Draft Profile". Retrieved 30 April 2017.
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