NFL

Ex-UGa star Thomas Davis intends to fulfill Super Bowl promise to owner

Thomas Davis Carolina Panthers
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis came up one game short of fulfilling a promise to Panthers team owner Jerry Richardson when the Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos. Davis can’t remember when he promised Richardson a Super Bowl ring, but going into his 12th season he knows that time is running out on his chances to deliver.

“My goal and my whole reasoning for playing as hard as I can right now, and knowing that when you get to 12 years, time is starting to wind down — we want to put a Super Bowl ring on Mr. Richardson’s finger,” Davis told reporters Monday. “That was a promise that I made to him, and I’m trying to stay true to that promise.”

Davis and the defending NFC champions are preparing to begin their season Thursday when they will be in Denver trying to exact some small measure of revenge against the Broncos.

Thomas Davis was an All-American safety at Georgia, but he was moved to linebacker by the Carolina Panthers. COURTESY GEORGIA ATHLETICS

Thomas Davis was an All-American safety at Georgia, but he was moved to linebacker by the Carolina Panthers. COURTESY GEORGIA ATHLETICS

“It definitely means a lot to have the opportunity to play against the team that beat you in the Super Bowl, and they’re the reason you don’t have a Super Bowl ring,” Davis said.

Even on a team that is among the favorites to win it all, nabbing a championship is a long shot, but Davis has made a career out of defying the odds.

Davis was drafted by Carolina in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft after a standout career at Georgia. During his three years at Georgia, Davis totaled 272 tackles, including 18 tackles for loss, and added 10.5 sacks, three interceptions, six forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries. After his junior season, Davis was selected as a consensus first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC safety before entering the NFL draft. The Bulldogs moved Davis all over the field, using him as a linebacker and safety at times in the same game.

Davis was drafted as a safety by the Panthers and held the starting safety job for just one game during his rookie season. After he was benched, the Panthers moved Davis to linebacker. He has thrived there when healthy enough to be on the field.

Davis has torn the ACL in his right knee three times in his career. He is the only player who has come back to play after three ACL surgeries on the same knee and may have had the best year of his career last season at the age of 32.

In 2015, he totaled 105 tackles, 5.5 sacks and tied for the league lead in interceptions by a linebacker with four (tied with teammate Luke Kuechly). In recognition of his tremendous season, Davis was elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career and also was named a first-team All-Pro at linebacker.

Davis broke his arm during the Panthers’ win over Arizona in the NFC championship game last season, but once again overcame the odds by playing in the Super Bowl just two weeks later. Davis didn’t just play in the game with a broken arm; he didn’t miss a snap.

Thomas’ combination of athletic talent and toughness have made him a fan favorite in Carolina for years, but he turned 33 in March and questions about when he will retire are getting louder. Thomas isn’t ready to talk about retirement yet.

“I’m 33 years old, but I really don’t feel that old,” Davis said Monday. “I just try to make sure that when I go to practice every day, or we’re in the game, I’m trying to keep up with what they’re doing and trying to see how I match up against some of those younger guys.”

RELATED: 10 most important former SEC players to their NFL teams this season

(You can follow Tony Smith on Twitter @1010XLFatTony)

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