As a kid growing up in Atlanta, Jabari Davis dreamed about playing big-time college football.
There was plenty of time for him to develop his skills but just as important, there was plenty of time for him to develop other important aspects of a successful student-athlete.
Davis went from youth camp to youth camp throughout his childhood and as he realized while listening to guest speakers at those camps, becoming a good person off the field is something he had to do.
Eventually, Davis landed a scholarship with the University of Tennessee and played for the Vols from 2001-2004. The running back gained 1,228 yards and scored 22 touchdowns in his career.
“As a young man, when my parents took me to those camps, I learned a lot about how to better my game, physically and better my confidence mentally,” said Davis, who lives in Maryville. “I learned what it takes to be a successful student athlete on and off the field. You have to carry yourself a certain way.”
These days, Davis is the one passing on that valuable information to young football players.
Through the Legends of Tennessee football camp, Davis and other former Vols players interact with kids ages 6-14 and teach them about good character, about how to develop leadership skills and about football fundamentals.
Davis’ venture is a non-profit. In addition to running camps, he has awarded scholarships to young kids.
The latest camp was Saturday and Sunday in Pigeon Forge. It was capped at under 100 kids due to COVID-19 guidelines and sold out a few days before it began. Former Tennessee players who coached at the camp were Terry Fair, Troy Fleming, Justin Harrell, Brett Kendrick, Corey Larkins, Herman Lathers, D’angelo Lloyd, Rico McCoy, Gerald Riggs Jr., Derrick Tinsley, Chris Treece and Eric Westmoreland.
This is the third year for the camp, which Davis created after former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer had to stop his involvement in a similar camp because he became the university’s athletic director.
At the first Legends of Tennessee Camp in 2018, Davis said there were more than 100 kids. In 2019, the camp traveled around the state and had more than 1,000 kids combined.
The plan was the same for 2020. At two camps in the first weekend of March, there were more than 200 kids in attendance. Then the pandemic hit full force in the United States, and Davis had to shut down the camp tour.
He finally got approval to run one more camp, and he was ecstatic to do so.
“We just wanted to do something positive for the community because of all the chaos and drama going on with sports,” Davis said. “What brings people together in this state is football. This is a football state. We don’t care what race you are. We all come together for that one great game.
“That game teaches the young generation a lot — great life lessons, great character, what it takes to be a successful student-athlete and just building quality young men.”
Holding the camp despite the pandemic seemed like a great idea, but many of the camp’s sponsors have suffered financially.
Davis said he was floored by how much local business were willing to give despite all of that and that it took a community effort over the last two months to make this weekend’s camp happen.
“One thing about this Tennessee fan base is they support you as a player and even when your playing days are over,” Davis said. “When they saw somebody in the community doing something, this fan base really got behind me. They said, ‘Coach what do you need for this and what do you need for that?’
“A lot of my sponsors we’ve had relationships with still said, ‘We don’t have a lot to give, but we will do something for you to do this for the community.’”