Hawks to Watch: Don Davis, senior director of player affairs for the NFLPA

Don Davis
Senior Director of Player Affairs, NFL Players Association
BGS Human Development (1997)

Why Don’s a Hawk to Watch:

Don Davis’s love for the game of football runs deep. With two Super Bowl rings to his name and 11 years of professional playing experience under his belt, the Kansas native is continuing to leave his mark on the sport — this time, off the field.

Born and raised in Olathe, Don played as a three-year starter with the Kansas Football team, racking up 238 tackles and 9.5 sacks during his time at KU. A College graduate, he earned his B.G.S. in Human Development in 1997, a focus, he says, that sharpened his communication skills and shaped his outlook on the value of lifelong learning.

After years playing with the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the St. Louis Rams, in 2003 Don signed with his final team — the New England Patriots. During his four seasons as a linebacker for the Patriots, the team chalked up two Super Bowl victories in 2003 and 2004. Now retired as an athlete, Don is on a mission to improve working conditions for football players as the Senior Director of Player Affairs for the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). A tireless advocate for athletes’ rights, he’s applying his strategic strengths and longtime passion for education to fight for fair wages, hours, and treatment for NFL players.

Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images.

Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:

I advocate for the rights of professional football players and work to improve their wages, hours and working conditions.

How did you end up doing what you do?

During my professional career I had the pleasure of being voted as player representative six times. This opened my eyes to the NFLPA and how valuable the organization is to players.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

I oversee the engagement and education of all active players in the NFL. We have worked hard to improve the relationship with our players and I am most proud of the fact that we have increased the number of players who attend our annual events.

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

In 2014, I had coworkers questions my integrity and character. This was especially difficult because I considered these two individuals my friends. The only way I was able to move through that year was to keep my head down and focus on my work. I had to ignore the noise around me and trust that in the end that the truth would eventually come out. I am thankful that it did.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I have a passion for teaching. Education is the ultimate equalizer. In ten years, I hope to be on a tenured track at a university and running a sports institute that focuses on athletes.

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. Know exactly who you are and never try to be something you are not. In the end, you will work way too hard to gain the appreciation of people who don’t matter.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

I have two: Under-promise and over-deliver, and master the mundane.

How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?

Human Development is all about learning, growth and people. My degree has allowed me to communicate with a diverse group of people and engage in the process of being a lifelong learner.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

100% family man. I have no real hobbies. I work, workout and spend my time with my family.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I am 100% an introvert, even though I fake extroversion on a daily basis.

Meet more of our Hawks to Watch. For more information, visit the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).

Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.