VONTAE DAVIS WAKES just after sunrise on a weekday in August and wonders how he’ll start the day. He has little on his schedule — a lunch meeting with his business partner and maybe some household chores — so he decides to spend his morning doing something familiar, a routine from his NFL playing days: logging an hour in his hyperbaric chamber.
He zips himself inside the pill-shaped device — an inflatable mattress meets sleeping bag — and breathes in the pure, compressed oxygen. To pass the time, Davis reads a business book on his Kindle. Today’s chapter is about CEOs — how whenever possible, they shy away from the spotlight. It’s of particular interest to Davis, who is now CEO of a soon-to-open holistic wellness spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But the chapter resonates in a deeper way. It’s been almost a year since Davis stunned the sports world with one of the most bizarre retirements in history. With his Buffalo Bills down 28-6 minutes before halftime against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2, the 30-year-old two-time Pro Bowl cornerback removed himself from the game. Then he walked to the locker room, took off his jersey and drove home.
It was a confounding decision, one that thrust him into the national spotlight. Former teammates and fans called him a quitter. His brother, Vernon Davis, a 14-year NFL veteran, was heartbroken. Commentators and sportswriters questioned Vontae Davis’ mental health and made jokes on social media and talk shows.
Now, 11 months later, Davis emerges from the chamber. He’s wearing shorts branded with the logo of the Indianapolis Colts, with whom he spent six of his happiest football years. This is the first August since high school that he isn’t preparing for a season, and he admits it’s strange. He’s still in shape — 210 pounds, 5 shy of his playing weight. Just the other day, he posted a video of himself on his Instagram running shirtless on his Peloton, his muscles bouncing with every stride, prompting his followers to ask if he was readying a comeback. The thought made him laugh.
Vontae Davis doesn’t miss the NFL, and he doesn’t regret his decision to walk off the field.
“Most people, when I did what I did, they thought I was literally going insane or something,” he says. “But I was actually fine. I was totally fine.
“And I’m totally fine today.”
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