The player who walked out at half: what happened to Vontae Davis?


September 16, 2018. The Buffalo Bills were taking on the Los Angeles Chargers when something that has never happened before in a game occurred. It had appeared that a Bills player retired at halftime and would not return to the playing field.

That Bills player was none other than Vontae Davis, a two-time Pro-Bowl cornerback who had just signed a one-year deal with Buffalo before the season. Davis seemed to be still in his prime as he was only 29 when he decided to call it quits. Davis had surgery the year before to fix up some damage done to his groin but remained healthy and seemed like a very good signing for the then-struggling Bills.  So what was it that made Davis walk away from the game?

Let’s start early with Davis and look back to his time in high school. Davis went to Dunbar High School, which is located in Washington D.C. Davis was a two-sport athlete who had won many accolades, including the title of D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior season. He had several colleges knocking at his door including Maryland, Michigan State, and Virginia but narrowly chose to take his talents to Champaign, Illinois to play for the Fighting Illini.

In his college days, Davis impressed early and was named to the Freshmen All-American Team after recording 52 tackles and an interception. His sophomore and junior years saw similar numbers with 76 and 78 tackles and a career-high of 4 interceptions as a sophomore and 7.0 tackles for loss as a junior.

After his junior season, Davis declared for the NFL Draft and received an invitation to the NFL Combine which led to scouts labeling him as a first or second-round pick. Davis ended up running a 4.49-second 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 37.5 inches which scouts loved, especially the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were on the clock with the 25th pick in the 2009 Draft and decided to take a chance on Davis. Davis was the second defensive back selected in this class after Malcolm Jenkins was selected 14th by the New Orleans Saints.

Playing time was not guaranteed early for Davis as he began his career for the Dolphins as a fourth-string corner. Eventually, wear and tear broke down the Dolphins secondary as starting corner Will Allen tore his ACL which led to Davis getting his first start in week 6 and would quickly start hot. In week 9, Davis intercepted a Tom Brady pass and had a season-high 6 solo tackles. He ended his rookie campaign with 60 total tackles, 11 passes defended, 4 interceptions, and a pick-six.

The next two seasons saw Davis take the reigns as the top corner on the Dolphins depth chart. Davis had a combined 97 tackles, 21 passes defended, 5 interceptions, and a forced fumble in these two seasons, but after year three, the Dolphins had questions if Davis was the best fit for their franchise. In 2012, the Dolphins traded Davis during training camp to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2012 second-round pick and a 2013 sixth-round pick.

The first two years with Indy saw Davis play in 26 out of 32 possible games during the regular season, but for the first time in his career, Davis had finished a complete season without missing a game. In 2013, Davis played all 16 games and filled the stat sheet with 46 tackles, 12 passes defended, and one interception. In 2014, Davis re-signed with the Colts on a 4-year, $39 million contract and had arguably the best year of his career. Davis closed up the year with 42 tackles, 19 passes defended, 4 interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a Pro Bowl appearance.

The next three seasons saw a bit of a decline in Davis numbers but his last season with the Colts, 2017, ended in a very bitter way. Davis had suffered a groin injury which caused him to sit the rest of the season as Davis’s injury required surgery which Davis agreed to. On November 9th, the Colts informed Davis that he would not return to the team which ended his six-year stint with the club.

Now, this leads back to September 16th.

Davis had signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Buffalo Bills and was ready to start the season with a big game against the Chargers. Well, Davis’s plans quickly changed. After just one half into the game, Davis decided he was done playing football and hung up his helmet and said, “I’m retiring.” This move had never been done by anyone before and shocked his teammates and NFL fans around the world. Not even his brother Vernon Davis, who was in the NFL at the time, thought he would just retire like this. It is reported that Davis removed himself from play in the first half and told head coach Sean McDermott he was “done” with playing football.

No one saw this move coming, and it is still not 100% clear why Davis truly decided to call it quits, but it has been said that Davis has found it very relieving and therapeutic that he has finally ended his career.