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Thomas Davis, linebacker, Carolina Panthers

Category: Personalities
Award: Best Sports Hero
Year Won: 2015
Pick: Editor's Pick

The NFL gave him its “Man of the Year” award. Charlotte gave him the key to the city. Davis gave us a reason to believe in professional athletes. On the field, Davis zips across the turf, pummeling ball carriers, ending plays. But it’s his character, a word often lazily thrown around with athletes, that makes him a hero. Here’s a guy who, as a poor boy in rural Georgia, had to heat water on the stove in order to take a bath. Here’s a guy who tore his ACL—the same ACL—three times, and came back after each injury, becoming the first NFL player to do so. In his emotional acceptance speech for the Man of the Year award, Davis said, “So often in my career, I’ve been the guy that’s come up just short.” Here is a man who has triumphed, finally.