Originally posted on the Washington Post by Master Tesfatsion, June 26.
There were 13 African American kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington hanging out in a high-end, men’s clothing store surrounded by $295 dress shoes. These children clearly aren’t the targeted demographic for Mezlan during a typical day at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, but they were Saturday. And Vernon Davis somehow made it happen.
The Washington Redskins tight end teamed up with Mezlan to promote fatherhood and the significance of mentorship among male role models. The partnership began June 6 and included a meet-and-greet session with the D.C. native as he took photos, signed autographs and shared his life experiences with the kids.
Davis, 33, wanted to bring them out to the mall not just to talk to them, but to also show them what’s available beyond their environment as 20 percent of the proceeds from purchases made went toward the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.
“It’s a lot that goes into it,” Davis said. “It’s not just the words that are coming out of my mouth. You’re putting them in an environment where they can walk around and say, ‘Hey.’ It’s a saying that goes if I hear, I’ll forget. If you show me, I’ll remember. That’s what it’s about.”
The day began when the kids received a private session with Davis and fired off anything they wanted to ask the 12-year NFL veteran. Just about all of their questions focused on football, but Davis pivoted them back to life and the adversity he’s faced in his career.
Davis was open and vulnerable when sharing the emotional experience of being traded from the San Francisco 49ers, the team that drafted him in 2006, to the Denver Broncos in 2015. Davis admitted he was devastated and had a difficult time picking up the playbook in a short amount of time. He was a backup for the first time in his career as a result, which also led him to question whether his career was over.
“Then, the season’s over; everyone is talking about how I’m getting old, can’t run anymore,” Davis told the children. “’Maybe he should retire. Maybe he should hang it up.’ That’s a lot right? Someone who’s not mentally tough and strong would give up. They would stop. They would quit. We see it all the time. People quit because they just can’t handle the pressure. We should accept and embrace pressure because pressure makes us great.”
The kids were also able to get some of their pertinent questions out of the way, such as how many touchdowns Davis scored at Dunbar High and what was the hardest hit he’s ever taken in the NFL.
Davis said it’s just the start for his partnership with Mezlan; both are aiming to make an impact on the next generation in the D.C. area.
“Change and just being able to see the change through some of these kids,” Davis said.
“Keeping up with these kids, keeping track on how they’re performing right now, after this, what are they doing right now, how are they acting. Then you look 10 years from now, what are these kids doing? The same kids that I had a chance to talk to, where are they? What are they doing? And if they’re doing a great job, especially in the environment they grew up in, then you know that their words had a huge impact on them.”