CHARLOTTE – "T.D. was one of the first guys to reach out to me when I tore my ACL," Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley said of the injury that cut his third and final season as a Georgia Bulldog short.
He's not the only player who can say the same of Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis.
"Just encouraging me, just telling me his story and giving me tips on stuff I can do, like workouts and stuff like that," Gurley continued. "He's been nothing but a good guy since I met him and for a guy that I didn't even know. To reach out to me like that and hit me up and welcome me with open arms means a lot."
Davis is all too familiar with knee injuries, having suffered three torn anterior cruciate ligaments in a span of three years, each one to his right knee. But he beat the pain - both mental and physical – by relying on remarkable perseverance to become the first NFL player to successfully return from three ACL injuries.
"I understand how tough it is to initially receive the news that you're going to be out for a year," Davis said. "I want to be able to help those kids out and let them know that it's not the end of the world and you can overcome it. A lot of them are dealing with injuries for the first time, so they don't know what to expect or how to handle that. Being a guy that's gone through it three times, I just want to muster up the information to them that, 'Hey, you can do this.' It's possible to come back from it, and it's not the end of the world."
The number of lives Davis has touched is immeasurable. When he says "fellow players," he doesn't simply mean athletes on an NFL roster. Included in that group are college players, like in Gurley's instance, and sometimes even high schoolers.
"I've talked to quite a few high school kids that were very unsuspecting of having a phone call from me," said Davis. "I just really try to lift their spirits and let them know that if I can do it, they can do it."
Part of the reason Davis makes it a point to talk to injured athletes is a pay-it-forward mentality. When he suffered his first ACL injury in 2009, he was on the receiving end of empowering messages from other players around the league.
"I had a lot of guys reach out to me, (even some) not from a standpoint of having gone through an ACL," Davis said. "I've had guys that have gone through other injuries that reached out to me and offered me words of encouragement and letting me know to keep fighting throughout the whole process."