Deciding to retire isn’t a decision most people take very likely, as the average person has to take a wide variety of factors into consideration before deciding to start a new chapter of their life—although it would be a stretch to describe former NFL cornerback Vontae Davis as an “average person.”
Professional athletes make more money than most people will ever sniff over the course of their lives, which (when combined with the taxing nature of a job that’s accompanied by a relatively short window for success) allows most of them to call it quits decades before they become eligible for a Social Security check.
Most people in that line of work don’t take the decision to retire very lightly; when you’ve essentially devoted your entire life to a single passion, it can be hard to accept it’s time to move on, and it can take weeks, months, and even years to accept what can be a very sobering reality.
In many cases, pro athletes will turn their retirement into a bit of a spectacle with the help of press conferences, open letters, and heartfelt social media posts that are harnessed to break the news, but others will go a bit more quietly into the night—including Davis.
Vontae Davis shocked the world by retiring in the middle of an NFL game
On January 2, 2022, Antonio Brown essentially called it a career in the middle of a game between the Buccaneers and the Jets when he ripped off his jersey and pumped up fans on his way to the locker room in what would be his final game with Tampa Bay (and, as of this writing, any NFL franchise).
However, Davis (the younger brother of former NFL tight end Vernon Davis) opted for a slightly more subtle approach when he pulled a similar move during a showdown between the Bills and the Chargers on September 16, 2018.
That contest marked the first time Davis had suited up for Buffalo in what marked his 10th season in the NFL.
Prior to that point, the man who’d played cornerback at the University of Illinois had spent three years in Miami (the Dolphins selected him with the 25th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft), and he’d recently signed a one-year deal with the Bills after a six-year stint with the Colts.
At the time, Davis had racked up over $50 million in career earnings, and the 30-year-old CB had the potential to add another $5 million to that sum by the time the 2018 campaign came to an end. However, that did not turn out to be the case.
Davis was with the rest of the Bills when they headed out of the locker room at New Era Field to greet the Chargers prior to the start of the game, but some keen observers realized that was not the case when Buffalo returned to the sideline after halftime.
Before long, reports started to surface to explain his absence, although it was a bit hard to believe them when you consider the official explanation was that Davis had retired from the NFL after deciding he was done with football at some point in the first half.
Davis had a feeling his time in the league was coming to an end before the season started, and while he thought he had enough left in the tank for one last ride, he apparently had the realization that was not, in fact, the case by the time the Bills left the field facing a 28-6 deficit.
He didn’t even take the time to gather his belongings after taking off his uniform, as Davis simply exited the stadium, hopped into his car, and drove home before taking a celebratory shot of tequila with his wife (who had learned about his decision via text around an hour before).
It’s safe to say that decision didn’t sit well with some of his teammates; a baffled Lorenzo Alexander described the move as “disrespectful” while ripping into his former teammate after what turned out to be a 31-20 loss at the hands of the Chargers, while LeSean McCoy and Tre’Davious White had some laughs at his expense while discussing the move.
Davis never had second thoughts about his decision and seemingly never regretted the choice to bring his career to an end in the manner he did (he described it as “therapeutic” and maintains he was simply listening to a voice he heard on the gridiron that told him his time was up).
While he may not be destined for the Hall of Fame, he’ll always have a place in NFL history thanks to this story.