Many former Black University of Minnesota athletes, originally from other places, have chosen to take up their post-athletic life in the area, but when asked they rarely wax fondly about their so-called glory days. Steve Davis is one notable exception.
Some ex-Gopher athletes I know personally have bemoaned the sad fact that, unlike other universities that have warmly welcomed their stars back on campus no matter how many years have passed, former Black Gophers over the years often got the cold shoulder from school officials. Once hailed as conquering heroes, the cheers and their eligibility seemed to end simultaneously.
You won’t find too many Gopher loyalists who, when asked, won’t admit this openly. When it comes to Black athletes, coming home doesn’t mean Dinkytown.
A two-day celebration for U of M Black athletes is scheduled for this coming weekend on campus. The first reunion was held in 2009 and has been held every other year since — 2011, 2013, and now this year.
The gesture for some was way too late — the snub die had been cast and nothing ever was going to change that. For others, however, it’s a welcoming sign.
“I haven’t looked back,” admitted Davis in an MSR phone interview. He played football at Minnesota (2005-08), was a 2005 freshman All-American and co-team leader for tackles for loss in that same season, eighth all-time in school history for QB sacks. He earned his degree in less than four years and now is in digital communications.
Originally from St. Louis, Davis, who had hoped to matriculate to the NFL after his Gopher days (that didn’t pan out), returned to the area almost a couple of years ago. “I think about the times I had… It was good times,” he recalled. “Everything happens for a reason. The opportunity didn’t present itself in the way I wanted, but I got my degree in three-and-a-half years.”
He has been since 2012 the creative director for Sporttechie.com, a startup sports and technology company. “I have graphic design in my background. I was doing a lot of that while I was in school,” explained Davis. “The past few years I’ve been in digital marketing, online marketing [and] video.”
If any regrets exist from his Gopher years, Davis points to not reaching out more to former Black Gophers who remained in the area when he was a student. He said, “When I was there, the athletes…did what the coaches told us to [do]. I was one of those guys that didn’t take advantage of the network that we had.
“There are so many people here that I could’ve tapped into. There are so many positive people here.”
Davis plans to attend this weekend’s event. The current Gopher football players most likely won’t be there because they are in game preparation for Saturday’s contest against Kent State, but Davis noted that he would offer this advice to any current Black players: Don’t take your Minnesota days for granted.
“There are people who can help you and want to help you,” he said. “If there is any way I can pass on the knowledge that I know, I will try to do it as much as possible. Using me as an example, I know the benefit of having a network to help you get to the next phase.”
Davis, who’s a part of Phirst Contention, an ensemble show that debates for fun current sports topics, responded when asked about his experience as a Black Gopher athlete, “I say it with pride. I’m proud to be from the University of Minnesota.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.