Life Is Good for Vontae Davis, But It Wasn't Always This Way

Vontae Davis made it to the big time with a won't-quit work ethic and help from a trainer who believed in him.

Vontae Davis stands in the driveway of his palatial home in Davie, Florida, surrounded by palm trees and luxury cars. To his left sits a Lamborghini. To his right, a shiny white Rolls Royce. The Rolls retails for more than $300,000. The Lambo? Who knows?

"The Lamborghini was my dream car," says the Colts shutdown cornerback. He motions toward the Rolls. "This one, I kind of just grew into."

Like his car collection, Davis's profile in the NFL has grown during his six seasons in the league. After performing reliably for the Miami Dolphins during three of those seasons, Davis says he "grew into the player I knew I could become" in Indianapolis. His stats confirm it. Last season, he knocked down or deflected 19 passes, nabbed four interceptions and landed in his first Pro Bowl. He hasn't allowed a touchdown in coverage since 2013.

But for all of the big-time plays he's made and the lavish lifestyle he now enjoys, things weren't always easy for Davis. He grew up one of seven children raised by his grandmother, Adaline, in a modest row house in the Petworth section of Washington D.C. Today the neighborhood is up-and-coming, with rising real estate values and new development, but when Davis was a kid, the area was known for drugs, crime and violence.

Vontae Davis

Vontae's older brother Vernon was a three-sport standout and All-American at Dunbar High School. Now an All-Pro tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, Vernon used to wake Vontae up before school to run stadium stairs. When Vontae got to high school, Vernon—then a freshman on the University of Maryland's football team—introduced him to strength coach Myron Flowers of 360fit Performance in Laurel, Maryland.

"I immediately noticed [Vontae's] toughness," Flowers says. "He's not a guy who's going to start a fight; but he's tough in the sense that he's always going to compete."

Davis and Flowers are playing a hotly contested game of pool inside the athlete's home.  Davis takes a commanding lead early on, but Flowers comes roaring back. After Davis misses an 8-ball shot to put the game away, Flowers drains two balls in a row and wins.

"Get out of here, man!" The trainer shouts as both men start laughing. Flowers looks over at a visitor and says, "I don't just train him, I whup him too."

Flowers has flown down from D.C. to train Davis and a few other athletes in South Florida, which he does for six weeks every off-season. He has been working with the Colts for more than a decade. Throughout Davis's high school years, Flowers trained the athlete without payment.

"Myron sacrificed payment from me to work out because my grandmother didn't have the money," says Davis. "That's why he's a close person in my life. He's someone who wanted my goals and aspirations to come true just as much as I did. He pushes me to get better every day and I appreciate him for that."

To Flowers, it was simply a matter of recognizing an athlete who had great potential. He says, "When I met [Vontae], I said, 'Okay, here's a guy who if I continue to push, he will reach the pinnacle of his sport.'"

Vontae Davis

Today, Flowers puts Davis through what he calls a "non-traditional workout." Rather than doing heavy lifts, Davis performs exercises with lighter weight for high reps. This builds muscular endurance, which is what keeps an athlete able to perform at his peak over a long duration, such as a 3-hour-long football game.

"I believe the body should be conditioned in the weight room the same as it's used on the field," says Flowers. "It helps him stay strong later in football games. The proof is in his production. He's one of the best cornerbacks in the league."

Exercises in the routine (shown on pg. TK) are grouped together in supersets, meaning Davis performs two or three moves consecutively with no rest between them. This elevates his heart rate and improves his conditioning, while also strengthening specific muscle groups, which on this day are his shoulders and biceps. At first, one might mistake it for a bodybuilding workout, but Flowers says it's critical for the shoulders to be able to withstand the punishment they take on the gridiron. Plus, the routine includes moves like TRX Reverse Flys, which develop the small muscles on the back of the shoulder that keep the joint stable.

"We like to work smaller muscles groups because a lot of times they're neglected, and eventually you have an injury," says Flowers.

The two men complete the day's workout at The Chamber, a gym in Davie founded by Chris Chambers, a former Miami Dolphins All-Pro and graduate of Bedford [Ohio] High School (a STACK school). Then they head outside to run some routes and do some skillwork.

When the training is over, Davis drives to a smoothie bar for some post-workout fuel. Greeting the owner, Pai Dayan, warmly, he mentions that the bar opened only recently but that he visits it on a regular basis. "My boy Pai, man, he's had this spot for about eight months. Doin' pretty good, man. Entrepreneur," Davis says, as he tucks in to a bowl of blended strawberries, bananas, acai berries and almond butter. "I normally come here after my workout and get some protein. That's how I settle my day down."

Later that night, Davis and Flowers dine at Café Martorano, an Italian-American restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale frequented by celebs. The lighting is dim, TVs play clips from classic television shows, and the patrons dress as if they're attending a formal affair.

"I really like the ambiance in here," Davis says. He and his trainer have plates adorned with lean protein and noodles. "I really eat a lot of chicken and fish, but when I go off my diet, I love to have pasta Alfredo. I'm just a pasta guy."

As Davis and Flowers are leaving the restaurant, owner and chef Steve Martorano gives the athletes some parting gifts. Davis is one of the celebrities who have helped make his place famous. "Got a hat from the man himself," Davis says with a smile. "And a book. Doin' pretty good, man."

On the drive home in his Rolls, Davis reflects on how his life has changed since he signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the Colts in 2014. He says that although some people view his fine cars and other possessions as simple luxuries, he views them as reminders of why he must expend just as much energy and effort in tomorrow's training session as he did today, saying, "People see the cars, the house, and this and that, but at the end of the day it's more about the journey and the hard work that got me into this situation. To me, having the cars is a motivator, because I know that without hard work, I wouldn't have anything."

Shoulder and Bicep Workout

To build shoulder and bicep strength and endurance, try Davis's upper-body workout once per week in your off-season. Perform the grouped exercises consecutively with no rest between them. Rest 1-2 minutes between supersets.

1a. Barbell Overhead Press

Barbell Overhead Press

Benefits: Builds strong shoulders needed to make powerful tackles.

How To: Hold a barbell across the front of your shoulders with a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width overhand grip. Keeping your core tight and back flat, press the barbell overhead until your arms are straight. Slowly lower the bar to the front of your shoulders to return to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 1x20; 1x16; 1x10

1b. TRX Reverse Flys

TRX Reverse Flys

Benefits: Strengthens your back muscles, which improve shoulder stability.

How to: Adjust the suspension trainer to mid-length. Stand with the anchor point two to three feet in front of your feet. Grasp the handles with your palms facing in and lean back. Your arms should be straight in front of your shoulders. Keeping your elbows straight, drive your arms out to the sides until they're in line with your body. Slowly return your arms to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 1x20; 1x16; 1x10

1c. Bicep Curls

Bicep Curls

Benefits: Develops big and strong biceps.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing forward. Keeping your elbows close to your body, curl the weight up to your armpits. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 1x20; 1x16; 1x10

2a. Cable Y

Cable Y

Benefits: Works the small muscles on the back of the shoulders, which keep your shoulder joints healthy and stable.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding cable handles in front of your hips. The cables should crisscross each other. Keeping your elbows straight, drive your arms overhead to form a Y with your body. Slowly lower your arms to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 1x20; 1x16; 1x10 

2b. Barbell Straight-Arm Overhead Raise

Barbell Straight-Arm Overhead Raise

Benefits: Improves trap strength and size to protect your upper-body from impact.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding a barbell with a shoulder-width grip in front of your hips. Keeping your arms straight, raise the barbell until it's overhead. Slowly lower the bar to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 1x20; 1x16; 1x10

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