Meet Will Davis, the former NFL player turned creative mastermind. An athletic kid, he spent his childhood between Spokane, Washington and Compton, California. Although he didn’t start officially playing football until his senior year in high school, he went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers before finding a new love in photography, modeling, and content creation. We recently chatted with Will about his creative passions, his commitment to being the best, and what it means to be a father in the era of COVID and BLM.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. We want to know more about where you came from, How you got to where you are, and what makes you, you!
I grew up in LA. My parents ended up moving to a little town in Washington state called Spokane. Then, when I was 10, my parents ended up getting divorced, and my mom moved back to California. But my dad stayed in Washington and ended up winning custody.
So my summers from then on out looked a little different. Since my time was split between my parents’ houses, I spent my summers in Compton at my grandma’s house. It opened my eyes to another world that I hadn’t been exposed to before.In Spokane, I was usually the only Black kid in my class. Then, when I was in Compton, I was surrounded by kids that looked just like me. Now that I look back on it as an adult, I know that it helped me see multiple views of the world.
I was always an athletic kid, and I grew up playing sports. By the time I hit high school, I was in track and basketball. But by my senior year, I decided to explore the world of football. I definitely didn’t know it at the time, but this decision was a life-changing one for me.
After High School I continued my football career in a D2 Western Washington.Then after my first year they ended the football program, but I still stayed because I loved my friends and the life I’d built there. Since I wasn’t playing football, I decided to do track. Which was great, but ultimately football called me back.
I ended up transferring to De Anza College in Cupertino, California. I had a friend that convinced me to try out for cornerback on their team and it ended up working out. We balled out that first season and totally killed it.
Because we did so well, I received a full-ride scholarship offer from Utah State University and transferred there. At that point I finished my senior year with a whole host of football awards. Then the senior bowl invites started rolling in and shortly after that NFL combine invites came in. I ended up signing with an agent then went on to be blessed to get drafted in the third round with the Miami Dolphins. And that was the start of my NFL career. From there I was traded to the Ravens, where I played my 2015-2016, and after that I signed with the 49ers for a year in 2017.
Ultimately, I decided to transition out of the NFL and out of my football career into a more creative role. Now, I’m focusing on being a content creator, a lifestyle model, a photographer, and a father.
You don’t ever see yourself going back to the NFL then?
I played for the American Alliance Little League, and I had an offer this year to play for the Toronto team. But honestly, it just didn’t seem like the right fit for me at this time. I’m more interested in exploring the creative side of my career. So now I’m just putting my head down, getting into this new role, and giving it everything that I’ve got.
I heard your brother used to play football too. Was there ever a sibling rivalry there?
Totally – no question about it!
Sean, my brother, put me in a position to be great. Growing up, I made him my rival. I always wanted to be on separate teams, and I always wanted to beat him at everything. It didn’t stop at sports, either. I wanted better friends, I wanted better grades, I wanted better everything. It was pretty crazy.
When we got to high school, he developed quicker. He was older than me, so he got into sports first. And I had to respect that. He decided to play football, so I stayed out of it. And really, I was a better basketball player anyways, so that’s what I focused on. And he respected that. It was kind of like our unspoken rule.
After he graduated, it was game on for me. That’s when I played my first year football. It was funny because throughout high school, I always had coaches telling me that I needed to play football. I never wanted to live in his shadow. Once I started finally playing football, it was like I was meant to be playing football. It was that year that really changed my life.
We hear that you’re an avid photographer. What got you into photography? And why do you love it so much?
It’s interesting to think back on how it all started. All throughout high school, I pretty much always had a camera in my hand. My dad was a pastor, and so growing up I was always helping out by recording the services.
It wasn’t until 2014 and 2015 when I really started to get into photography. At that time I was in the league, and I was traveling a lot. I started documenting all my trips. I learned a lot from this guy in London while I was living there. His name is Mike and he’s now a Sony Ambassador in the UK. We were out shooting every week and I largely credit him for lighting that fire in me.
There’s something magical about photography. I think when you capture something great that first time, it’s kind of a life-changing moment. And I love the creative side of processing the image and making it what you want it to be. Bringing my creative vision to life is an amazing process.
Now, it’s kind of morphed into this new role and I’m working on building it into another branch in my career path. I started by building my Instagram and working with various brands. But I hit a new level recently when the senior art director at Fabletics reached out to me and wanted to partner with me for one of their upcoming shoots. I also worked with Microsoft and the Xbox team to model for one of their upcoming products. So I guess you could say photography and modeling are a little bit more than hobbies for me now.
Do you ever struggle with being your own worst critic or trying to find the right level of authenticity especially as a content creator?
Totally. No question about it. My life is kind of built around being scrutinized. I always strive to be the best, which is what got me to the level that I needed to be at to get into the NFL. I am definitely my own worst critic. It’s something that drives me to be better, but it can also be a hindrance at times. But all the scrutiny can be exhausting at times.
Truth be told, I’m kind of a perfectionist. Sometimes, I’ll get stuck on just one picture, because when I hit publish I want it to be perfect. Sometimes, I have to talk myself into just letting things be. Sometimes you just gotta let it go!
What does an average day look like for you? Would you consider yourself more of an early bird or a night owl?
I’m an early bird, hands down. Definitely prefer it. And I think it’s beneficial if you can train yourself to become an early bird. Honestly, it’s probably one of the best things you can do for yourself productivity-wise. It always seems like I’m more productive in the morning.
I’m usually up by 6:30 am. I start by reading a verse and then maybe sifting through Instagram for a while. After that, I usually start my day off with breakfast. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m usually at the gym most of the morning. Then, I’ll move on to the work portion of my day after grabbing lunch with the guys.
Some days, we’ll have a creative team meeting. We’re in the fledgling state of a creative agency type of group right now. We’re always looking on the horizon for the next big creative thing, whether that means working with a new brand or creating something ourselves. Plus, I’m always working on my own brand. Lately I’ve been focusing on creating more authentic content centered more around what I’m doing to be a better person and create a better life for everyone.
Today’s world can feel pretty crazy, between the heightened awareness of the BLM movement and the COVID pandemic. What does being a parent mean to you, and how do you teach your kids about what’s going on and how different life for them looks today than it did for us?
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are when I get to spend the most time with my kids. I have a 13 year old, 6 year old, and a 3 year old. We spend a lot of our summers together up in Washington. COVID has kind of thrown a wrench into plans, but we’re making it work. It’s kinda crazy, but that’s just reality now.
With my 13 year old, we can talk more about these things then we can with the six-year-old and the three-year-old. She’s growing up kind of like I did. She’s a young, Black woman in Spokane, Washington surrounded by mostly white kids. She’s just getting into her tween years and she’s coming into the stage where she’s starting to realize what being a Black woman in America can mean. We talk periodically about how things are going at school and how life is, and I think she’s been blessed not to have experienced anything like what we’re seeing on TV right now.
With my son however, I think he’s had a little bit of a different experience because of a situation we went through last summer. We were in Washington at the time, and we were driving around. He was in the back seat, and we soon found out that I was following too close to a police officer in front of us. We ended up getting pulled over for it.
I spend most of my time in California, so I had forgotten that my Washington state license was suspended because of a ticket I forgot to pay. So he goes back to his car, and when he comes back he told me that he’s going to have to take me in because I was driving with my license suspended.
I was trying to stay calm and he was getting increasingly aggressive about taking me in. I was really worried about what was going to happen to my son. I asked him what we were going to do about my son because he was in the back seat. I told him that his mom was at work and she couldn’t come get him. He told me not to worry about it, and that they would “take care of it.” Then, he decides to cuff me and put me in the squad car.
I was furious and I couldn’t believe it was happening. I didn’t want to leave my son with strangers. It didn’t seem right that they were just going to take me away without having any plans in place for my son. Then, to make things worse, once we got in his car, he took my phone and asked me for my password. I asked him why he needed that, and he said that he needed to call my “baby mama” to pick up my son. At that point I was absolutely furious. I couldn’t believe that he would even ask for my password. It’s like the ultimate violation of my privacy.
The whole incident should have been handled completely differently, especially considering there was a child in the car. And I can tell it affected my son. By the time they booked me, I got my things, and made it back home, my son wasn’t even home yet. Now, I’m having to have conversations about how sometimes cops don’t just arrest bad people. Because in a child’s mind, cops only arrest bad people. I think in his mind, he was grappling with the fact that his dad was being arrested – which made me a bad person.
This is just the part about growing up Black in America that we haven’t been talking about enough. Now, thanks to the BLM movement, I’m having more conversations with my friends about how this happens to people just like me. Even though it might not happen within your friends group, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen more often than you might realize.
At the end of your stressful days, what do you do to decompress and unwind at the end of the day?
I try to end my days like I begin them. I open up my Bible and talk to God and really reconnect with him. Some days I switch it up, and meet up with other men to study and talk together. I also like catching up with my friends and chilling a little bit at the end of the day.
Do you have a mantra or a motto that you live by?
I didn’t used to, but once I heard it, it really stuck with me. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. There really is no staying the same. I’m always pushing forward and trying to be better – you know, even if it’s a small thing everyday. Each day is a constant battle and I’m always pushing to be better day after day.
Want to follow along on Will’s journey? You can find her on Instagram @willdavis