Atlanta Falcons

Falcons RB Mike Davis surprised by high school coach with Walter Payton award nomination

ATLANTA — Falcons running back Mike Davis got a little emotional when his former high school football coach surprised him with the news that he would be he team’s nominee for the Walter Payton MFL Man of the Year Award.

The Falcons posted a video on Tuesday showing Davis having a chat with former Stephenson High School football coach Ron Gartrell. The two discuss their experiences on and off the field.

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“I’m not going to get emotional, stop it!” Davis says in the video while telling Gartrell how much he looked up to him.

“The whole community of Atlanta is realizing you are doing a great job on the field as well as off the field, and sometimes things you do off the field are greater than things you accomplish on the field, because that’s what people remember,” Gartrell tells Davis before surprising him with the announcement.

The Walter Payton award recognizes “excellence on and off the field,” according to the NFL’s website. The award was renamed in 1999 after Payton, the late Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back.

Every team selects a player as their team’s Man of the Year. The national winner gets $250,000 donated to the charity of his choice, and all other nominees receive up to $40,000 donated courtesy of the NFL Foundational and Nationwide.


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Davis graduated from Stephenson, where he played football and ran track, and he returned to Atlanta after signing with the Falcons in 2021. He started The Mike Davis Foundation of Hope, which hosts free youth football camps.

“It’s been a great feeling this whole time – ever since the Falcons signed me, especially with the way the community embraced me and how much I’m able to give back to the community. I just want to say thank you to everybody. I’m grateful, and I can’t wait to do more,” Davis said.

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Davis also hosted a back-to-school event to help students get needed supplies, and he hopes to do more events in the community.

On the field, Davis has rushed for 338 yards and two touchdowns this season.