ATLANTA -- Mike Davis drove over to the west side of Atlanta on Tuesday morning and the memories started flooding back. Thoughts of growing up in the community, of what it meant for him to leave and then come back as an Atlanta Falcons running back this offseason.
Then, as he saw the address he was going to, he started to remember more. He was headed for Maddox Park as part of a Falcons community event to help clean up the inner city park.
When he saw the address and was making the drive over, he realized something else. This was a park he used to play in as a kid.
“The memories and me having flashbacks most definitely came back,” Davis said. “A lot of things are changing over here anyways, so it’s cool to come out in the community and help.”
He said this as he took a break from raking leaves with his fellow running backs as part of one of the team’s community initiatives, one where the majority of the Falcons players took part for an hour each. They raked leaves and picked up trash. Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage helped plant flowers. Duron Harmon tried -- and eventually succeeded -- in tearing up old tree trunks. Steven Means, Deion Jones, Mykal Walker and Younghoe Koo helped repaint the Maddox Park sign at the entrance.
For a lot of players, it mattered. For Davis, it was more personal. He came to Maddox Park -- and other parks on the west side of Atlanta -- on holidays such as Easter and July 4. This place, 10 minutes away from his childhood home, is where his family would congregate.
“You run around, have a bunch of people out here,” Davis said. “It wouldn’t just be us having a cookout. It would be the whole town coming together, having a cookout.
“You’d have kids running around with each other and usually a big day.”
As he was explaining this, he went back and forth with Falcons teammates who were joking with him about getting out of a few minutes of work. He said he hadn’t been to this park since a cookout when he was in college at South Carolina -- he used to play football as a kid at Grove Park and English Park -- but things like this are what he hoped to get involved in as part of coming back to play for his hometown team.
In years past, when he’d been in Seattle and Carolina, he had his football camp in the city. But being here year-round, being able to sleep in his own bed in his permanent home every night, inspired him to start to want to do more.
“It’s pretty cool,” Davis said. “I mean, as I pulled in, it brought out a lot of memories.”