Vontae Davis’ abrupt halftime retirement last season sparked fury among some football fans and inspired conversation about the toll that the game takes on players. The former NFL cornerback has since continued along an entrepreneurial journey that manifested in the release of a children’s book and launch of a wellness spa.
As a calm but cheerful Davis told an intergenerational audience this month, those milestones culminated two years of networking and reinventing himself as a businessman, a process he wouldn’t have taken on had he not been open to explore possibilities outside of professional football.
“If you saw the people I met, you wouldn’t have thought I played football. I was able to build a network to put my business plan to start a spa [into action],” Davis told a group of College Bound, Inc. students and mentors on Nov. 14 during a weekly academic mentoring session at Walker Memorial Baptist Church in Northwest.
VZONE, Davis’ spa in Miami’s Design District, utilizes the properties of oxygen to provide therapeutic treatments to athletes and those with various medical needs. Part of his project design, he said, included speaking to doctors in the U.S. and abroad.
“I had to do my due diligence to figure out how I could hire a doctor,” Davis said. “This happens] by surrounding yourself with the right people, taking the right steps and not moving too fast.”
Similar life lessons appear in Davis’ new book “The Middle School Rules of Vontae Davis, as told by Sean Jensen,” a coming-of-age story chronicling Davis’ experiences as one of seven siblings raised by grandparents in Northwest during the 1990s and 2000s. Davis, accompanied by Jensen, engaged College Bound students in conversation about mentorship, choices, knowledge of self, overcoming hardship, and diversifying skillset. A similar event took place at Davis’ alma mater Paul Public Charter School earlier in the day.
Davis, a first-round NFL draft pick and younger brother of star NFL tight end Vernon Davis, spent a decade in the league, playing for three teams and making two Pro Bowl appearances. He first showed his propensity for football as a student at Dunbar Senior High School in Northwest, where he lettered in football and track. Davis later attended the University of Illinois, entering the NFL draft after his junior year. At the time of his retirement, Davis played for the Buffalo Bills.
During a Sept. 16, 2018, home game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Davis changed out of his uniform during halftime and left New Era Field to the chagrin of teammates and fans alike. That evening, people took to social media to taunt and berate Davis.
In the weeks and months following his controversial decision, Davis emphasized that football no longer served his physical, mental and spiritual development. And during his address at the Walker Memorial Baptist Church, he reiterated that message as he recounted the events that transpired.
“It was a vulnerable situation and an out-of-body experience with all that noise,” Davis said. “[Everything] shut down in front of me and I had to make a decision that was best for me. A lot of people criticized it but if you could live with it, then you made the right decision. I knew who I was and what I stand for. I sacrificed my health and that decision [put] my mental health way in front of the game of football.”