Gabriel Davis’ name is becoming synonymous with philanthropic endeavors.
The former Sanford Seminole and UCF star who now plays for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills is on a mission. He wants to give back to his community, he wants to help out those less fortunate, and he has made that a huge part of his life.
Davis was at it again Tuesday, giving out free backpacks in a Back-to-School event at the Pine Hills Boys and Girls Club’s Walt Disney World Clubhouse in Orlando. The event was held in conjunction with Walt Disney and Nike Inc.
“It’s great being able to be a positive influence to these kids and being able to give back to the community the best way I can, especially the community around me,” said Davis, who grew up in Sanford. “I know they will be feeling good about the book bags and some of the things that are in the book bags for them when they go back to school.
“I was one of those kids who was a little less fortunate than others and I know that a program like this is something that I would have liked to have been around. So I know when it came to my time to be able to give back, this is something I knew I wanted to do.”
With the help of former UCF teammates Tre’Quan Smith, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, and Nate Evans (Seattle Seahawks), as well as former Apopka and Florida standout Martez Ivey (Carolina Panthers) and former Memphis star Kenny Gainwell (Philadelphia Eagles), Davis and friends took part in the giveaway and also spent time playing games with the youngsters in club’s summer-camp program.
“You build these connections through football that are lifelong and being able to have these guys ... I can pick up the phone and call them and say, ‘Hey, can you come help me with this event that I’m trying to do for the community?” and they’re here in a split-second. It’s no problem,” Davis said.
“So I’m definitely happy for the guys that are here, and also the guys who weren’t able to make it like Cole Beasley, Dion Dawkins and Matt Milano [Dr. Phillips], who also helped, as well.”
The players not only gave out the backpacks but also took part in several relay races on teams with the youngsters in the clubhouse gym and they were having quite a good time.
“Oh man, this means a lot, and not just about giving back but it’s also about being accountable for people who are your good friends,” Smith said. “Gabe gave me a call and asked me what I was doing Tuesday ... I was like, ‘Why you asking me if I’m free? You already know I’m there. You’re my brother. Anything you ask me, if I can give it or if I can give my time, I’ll give anything I can, without hesitation.’
“I had a great time and it’s wonderful what he does for his community, always giving back, no hesitation. That means a lot to kids, giving back and just showing your presence and being there for kids is going to mean a lot to them.”
Davis came to UCF three years after Smith, who was a redshirt junior during Davis’ freshman season. The two receivers built a bond that has lasted far beyond their playing days in the Bounce House.
“I look at Gabe as my little brother. I know without a doubt I can always count on him and I know he feels the same way about me,” Davis said. “That means a lot and that’s just something we built at UCF. He asked Nate to come out here, too, and Nate showed up. We built all this in college as a team and everything we went through there.
“Those are all just memories in our heads and now we gotta create more memories doing things like today.”