Wendell Davis Gives Back
As a fleet-footed wide receiver in the NFL, former Chicago Bear Wendell Davis made his living trying to evade tacklers.
Now the 51-year-old Chicago resident, who spent six seasons with the Bears from 1988 to 1993, is the one hoping to do the tackling.
Wendell recently joined LifeSource to serve as a spokesperson for its African American Advisory Board, a newly formed committee geared toward diversifying the blood supply in order to tackle illnesses like sickle cell and heart and kidney disease.
“I think a lot of people just assume that blood is going to be there in the event they need a transfusion, but there is no guarantee,” Wendell said. “I hope my involvement with LifeSource can raise awareness in the African American community to the importance of donating blood.”
Wendell said a role with LifeSource “was not on his radar” until he spoke with friend and former NFL tight end Brent Novoselsky. Both men serve on the NFLPA Former Players Chicago Chapter, and Brent, a staunch advocate of LifeSource, asked Wendell if he would lend support to an upcoming Bears-themed blood drive.
“To be quite honest this is all very new to me,” Wendell said of the blood donation process and the sheer number of people who need blood transfusions. “I started doing some research and found out just how important it is to give blood. I figured since I played here I could help try to get the word out.”
Genetically similar blood is best for those who need frequent blood transfusions and have produced red blood cell antibodies for various diseases and conditions including sickle cell. Since 98 percent of the sickle cell cases involve patients who are African American it is critical to increase the number of minority donors.
Wendell said he now knows just how serious sickle cell disease can be after his cousin’s daughter passed away recently due to complications from the blood disorder.
“I’m a very spiritual man and I was thinking of ways to honor my cousin’s daughter and I think [this role with LifeSource] can help me make a difference,” Wendell said.
Although he is nearly a quarter-century removed from his last game in the NFL, Wendell has not strayed from the gridiron. He spent a pair of seasons on the San Francisco 49ers staff working with the team’s wide receivers and also spent time on the coaching staff at Columbia College in New York City. In between he spent two seasons as a coach at Palo Alto High School in California. He currently coaches wide receivers at Wendell Phillips Academy High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
“I love making a difference in the lives of kids,” Wendell said. “That can be done in many ways and one of those is coaching.”
A Louisiana native, Wendell said he grew up a fan of the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. He did not follow the Bears as a youth but quickly took to the city and its fans after being selected with the 27th pick in the 1988 Draft.
“My initial reaction was extremely grateful and excited to be drafted, but after things settled down and I looked at the Bears history at the wide receiver position I can certainly say it wasn’t my first choice but it ended up being the best choice,” Wendell said. “I met my wife Trish during my first training camp as a Bear, and the city of Chicago, well, it’s just so easy to fall in love with the spirit of Chicago.”
Wendell hauled in 207 passes and accumulated 3,000 receiving yards – good for 18th and 16th, respectively, in the team’s history – before a knee injury prematurely ended his career. Along the way, he had many memorable moments as a member of the Monsters of the Midway.
“When I came to the Bears the team wasn’t too far removed from the Super Bowl so I was able to be around some of the all-time greats,” he said. “Meeting some of those guys and playing with them was absolutely amazing.”
Wendell said his best memories during his tenure with the Bears were the interactions with his teammates in the locker room and on road trips.
“It was a special group of guys,” he said.
When pressed to pick a favorite game he cites a trip to New Orleans to play the undefeated Saints on Oct. 27, 1991. Although it wasn’t Wendell’s best game statistically – he had one catch for 27 yards – his homecoming coupled with a sold-out Superdome is something he will always remember.
“That was a great Saints team,” he said. “Their defense was so good and we were able to go into that building in front of all their fans and hand them their first loss.”
He also fondly recalls the infamous “Fog Bowl” against the Eagles on Dec. 31, 1988. A dense fog rolled over Solider Field in the second quarter and visibility was limited to around 20 yards. The Bears ended up winning the game 20-12.
“I was on the field and really couldn’t see anything,” Wendell recalled. “I pretty much remember hearing the clash of pads and the [public address] announcer saying ‘run by Neal Anderson.’ It was a wild game.”
Wendell was a member of three Chicago Bears playoff teams and is now looking forward to joining the LifeSource team and making an impact in Chicagoland.
“It would all be worth it if I can bring awareness to our community on the need to donate blood, and in doing so possibly save a life.”