The Fourth of July. It’s a day filled with food, fireworks, festivities and, of course, family for many Americans.
For the man with the Twitter handle @YouAreFree146, one might think that the holiday in which we celebrate America’s freedom would be especially joyous. But this day will forever serve as a reminder of tragedy for LB
“It’s a tragic loss in the big scheme because here’s a superstar who’s been tragically killed or whatnot,” he said, emotion building in his voice, “but it hit me a little bit different than other people.”
Demario Davis’ mother and Steve McNair’s father were siblings. He had lost his first cousin.
“Time really sits still in those moments,” Davis said. “A lot of stuff runs through your head at one time.”
His phone rang almost immediately after he read the news. It was his mom calling to inform him of the tragedy. As the reality of the situation sank in, he was speechless.
“It was just a tough situation,” he recalled. “You can’t really put it into words.”
With 16 years between them, Davis and McNair were never “super close,” but as a young kid, Demario would often throw the ball around with him in the yard or on the street. His family also frequently gathered at McNair’s ranch, which was always open for friends and relatives to stop by.
Davis idolized the longtime Tennessee Titans QB and looked forward to following in his older cousin’s footsteps as the second member of their family to play in the National Football League.
As a high school football player, Davis always watched his older cousin on Sundays, but he never went out of his way to ask McNair for advice on what it would take to eventually play on Sundays himself.
“In high school, you’re not really thinking about what’s next,” he said. “Even though I wanted to go to the NFL, I wasn’t focused on asking for tips on how to get there.”
Regardless, Davis did receive one piece of advice from his older cousin that has stuck with him: “Keep working hard and whatever you do, always try to be the best at it.”
In just his second year in the league, No. 56 has developed into one of the best linebackers on one of the best defenses in football. On Sunday, he will travel to Nashville, TN, to take on his cousin’s former team, with his whole family in attendance, in the city where McNair played from 1997-2005 and where he was eventually shot and killed.
“He did so much just to transcend the game in general,” he said, “but in that city, he led them to the Super Bowl, where they came one yard short of winning the Super Bowl against the Rams. I know his name means a lot in that city. I know that name has a lot of respect there.”
As Demario Davis continues his life in football, he’ll always be inspired by his cousin’s accomplishments, though he understands the importance of clearing his own path and becoming his own man.
“We’re two different types of players, two different guys,” he said (though physically, their body types were almost identical, with Davis at 6’2”, 239 and McNair at 6’2”, 235), “but it’s almost like he passed the torch on to me as far as carrying the banner for my family after him. I feel that sense of responsibility.
“He was somebody to look up to. It’s an honor to have somebody like him in my family.”