CHARLOTTE – In recent years, Thomas Davis hasn't gotten his hopes up in regards to Pro Bowl voting.
But the under-the-radar linebacker isn't under the radar anymore.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Davis is the leading vote getter at outside linebacker. The 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year joins inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, cornerback Josh Norman and center Ryan Kalil as Panthers currently in first place at their positions.
"I ain't going to lie, I'm excited about it," said Davis, who leads Carolina with 65 tackles and has posted three sacks and three interceptions. "It's still early in the voting process, but hey, I'll take it."
On top of that, Davis is one of 12 nominees and the only NFL player up for Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsman of the Year award. Fellow nominees include tennis star Serena Williams, soccer star Lionel Messi and Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah.
"That's an honor in itself, knowing that you're being mentioned with the likes of some of those names that are on the list," Davis said. "With me being a fan of sports, I'm a fan of a lot of those people of the list."
Norman, excited about his own Pro Bowl prospects, was one of several Panthers who is happy to see Davis getting some well-deserved recognition.
And as a horse-riding enthusiast, Norman knows the elite company Davis shares for the prestigious SI honor.
"Hey, there hasn't been a horse like (American Pharoah) in I don't know how long," Norman said. "That's a stupid high honor! I think he's the greatest horse that's ever lived."
A Triple Crown winner is tough competition, but head coach Ron Rivera knows Davis' success story ranks up there with the best.
"His story is one they could make a movie out of," Rivera said. "To see him go through what he did (three consecutive torn ACLs), it was heart-wrenching personally.
"This is what it's about as a coach, when you have young men that succeed like that."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game versus the Titans.