Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Panthers' Thomas Davis donates $15K to buy 60 championship rings for high school

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis donated $15,000 to buy 60 championship rings for Harding University High School’s football team after the school could not afford to buy the rings.

Harding won it’s first state championship since 1953, beating Scotland County 30-22 in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A state championship game. The team finished the season with a 14-1 record, but didn’t have enough money to buy the championship rings for the team.

With the rings costing about $400 a piece, the school started a GoFundMe page looking to raise $20,000. The fundraiser raised about $5,000 before Davis stepped in.

As Harding’s football head coach Sam Greiner was on the radio station Power 98 FM, Davis called into the radio station to tell the coach that he and his wife, Kelly Davis, were covering the rest of the cost.

“Don’t worry about it, we’ll just pay the rest. So that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to pay the rest of that money you all need, so you can get y’all rings,” Davis said on Power 98 FM radio.

He said he saw the story about the school’s GoFundMe page on WSOC-TV the night before, and wanted to help the school. Harding quarterback Braheam Murphy was grateful for the gesture.

“Our family, we don’t have a lot of money for people to help out. It is really a blessing,” Murphy said to WSOC-TV.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg on this story. When Greiner took the coaching job two years ago, his team went 1-10 in his first season. The school also had only one winning season since 2007.

The players didn’t have uniforms until Greiner’s church bought them. The team practices on a baseball field and have to get dressed behind the stands. Grenier’s church also feeds the players before the games.

“We have kids on our rosters that don’t really have homes. They really don’t know what they’re going to eat (from) day to day,” Greiner said to WSOC-TV.

That was shown with Murphy, who moved in with coach Greiner last year, because he was homeless and struggling in school. Murphy lost his mother, Diane, to a brain aneurysm when he was five and his father remarried and he didn’t gel well with the new family, according the Charlotte Observer.

Seeing Murphy’s plight, Greiner opened his home to his star quarterback, giving him some stability and also introducing him to a Christian community.

“We go to church together and I listen to Christian music and he sings the songs now. It’s changed the way he does things. He’s a good human being who’s been spoon-fed what the world was feeding him for so long, and to see something different changed him dramatically” Greiner said to the Charlotte Observer.

Murphy did better in school, improving his GPA to 3.7. Harding’s football team improved on the field as well. In 2016, Harding went 5-7 before advancing to the 4A championship game the following season.

In the game, Murphy had a 95-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to help give Harding University the state title. The win and Davis’ gift was the final chapter of a community rallying together for success on and off the field.

“I love these kids,” Greiner said to the Charlotte Observer. “It’s a family and when you build yourself together like that, there’s more than Xs and Os. Something special happens when a family happens. I saw something deep in these kids and I said, ‘We’ll be something special if God can keep us healthy.’ He kept us just healthy enough. It was a beautiful thing.”