As Ohio State right guard Wyatt Davis has pursued his dreams on and off the football field, he’s had a tremendous role model to look up to.
Davis’ grandfather, Willie Davis, played in the NFL for 12 years (1958-69). He helped lead the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships, including victories in the first two Super Bowls, and made five consecutive Pro Bowls. The first black captain in Packers history, Willie Davis never missed a game in his NFL career and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
After his football career was over, Willie Davis continued to achieve success in the business world. He made millions of dollars through Willie Davis Distributing, a beer distributorship in Los Angeles, and All Pro Broadcasting, which ran several radio stations in Milwaukee and Southern California. He also served on boards of directors for numerous national corporations – including American Express, Dow Chemicals and MGM Resorts, among others – and was a finalist to become the NFL’s commissioner in 1989.
Wyatt Davis is well aware of his grandfather’s vast array of accomplishments, and he wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
“My granddad was pretty much essentially my hero growing up,” Wyatt Davis said Thursday on a conference call with Ohio State reporters. “He was like a second father to me and my brother.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is my granddad was more successful and made more earnings outside of football than he was when he was playing, and just that type of work ethic is inspiring. He didn’t let people put him in a box of just being an athlete. He broke outside of that box and was extremely successful.”
Willie Davis died last month, at 85 years old, after battling health issues for the past couple of years. Although Wyatt Davis and his family knew that time was coming sooner than later, that still didn’t make it easy to process the loss of such an influential figure in his life.
“Growing up, he was always around. Especially with me and my brother, he treated us so good. And that’s why it was just so hard when he passed,” Wyatt said. “And it was even harder seeing him in the state that he was in, just because that’s not the granddad that I remember, in the hospital bed and that whole thing.”
Grandad you will be truly missed. You are the reason why I wanted to play football. I hope that I am making you proud. You are a true inspiration and I am fortunate to have had you in my life. Love you Grandad I am going to miss you! pic.twitter.com/3JwgBmIoCy— Wavy Dub (@wyattdavis53) April 15, 2020
Over the past month, though, Wyatt and his family have tried to keep their focus on all the positive memories they have of his grandfather. While he’d love to still have his granddad in his life, he feels fortunate to have had the 21 years with Willie that he did.
“Especially when he played, it was very unheard of for people of his generation to even live as long as he did, and I’m very appreciative just like the rest of my family of each second I was able to spend with him because man, he was just amazing to me,” Wyatt said.
While Willie Davis wasn’t able to physically attend any of Wyatt’s games at Ohio State due to his declining health, he did watch his grandson play from his home in California, and sent congratulatory video messages to his grandson – with the assistance of his wife Carol – after many Buckeye games. Receiving those videos meant a lot to Wyatt.
“Even at the end of the season, just him saying how proud of me he was, it was awesome,” Wyatt said. “It almost made me tear up just because he’s my idol. He’s what I want to be as a football player and as a businessman. So to hear him congratulate me on anything I do made me feel above and beyond.”
Wyatt Davis is already well on his way to playing in the NFL – he probably would have been an early-round pick if he declared for this year’s draft, but he chose to stay at Ohio State for at least one more year – and could be the best interior offensive lineman in all of college football in 2020 after already earning first-team All-American honors last season.
He’s also emerged as one of the team’s top leaders. Ohio State director of sports performance Mickey Marotti said earlier this week that Davis “gave probably the most inspiring talk to a team in a winter program that I’ve ever heard in my life” during offseason strength and conditioning workouts.
“I had tears. I know a lot of other guys were teared up. It meant so much,” Marotti said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “It was about the process of his development through his time at Ohio State. ‘Cause he was highly touted, wasn’t ready, had to go through that adversity, was at rock bottom and had to work his way up … that was really cool for me and really cool for our team to see that and our coaching staff to really see the growth and development from a leadership standpoint.”
Given the advice he received from Willie growing up, Wyatt Davis knows the best way he can honor his grandfather is by continuing to work hard in everything he does.
“Don’t be complacent with where you’re at. Don’t just be OK with just getting the job done,” Wyatt said of the lessons instilled in him by Willie. “And it relates to the real world. If you’re just barely doing what you need to do to get by, then that’s how successful you’re gonna be. You’re just gonna be barely doing enough to get by. So everything that we do and that we take part of, my granddad has always told me to go 100 percent, go above and beyond, and do what you need to do to be noticed. And that competitive nature, I feel like, is what drives me.”