By Joe Henricksen
There are so many former athletes who talk a great game. They want to give back. They want to inspire. They want to bring attention to the problems they see with our youth. They want to make a difference. But so many don't follow through or simply don't have the means, a plan or vision to do so.
Through the eyes and voice of Rodney Davis, a former prep star at East Aurora in the early 1980s and one of the all-time greats to play basketball at Northern Illinois, the former athlete is following through and making that all happen. And in this day where more and more kids' heads are in the clouds and in need of a reality check, Davis is a role model to bring them back to earth while still having the ability to inspire and instill the drive and motivation to succeed in life.
"For so many of these kids they think that's the way out," says Davis of the belief so many kids have that basketball -- and other sports -- will lead them to fame, fortune and the pros. "This book is for the 99.9 percent of those that aren't going to make it. I would never tell a kid he can't make it, but it's important to open a dialogue and have them start thinking of a backup plan."
Davis admits he was one who thought basketball was what would take him to great heights, with thoughts of playing professionally as a kid.
Davis was brought up to the varsity at East Aurora as a freshman by the late Ernie Kivisto, one of the legendary coaching icons in Illinois basketball history. Davis put together a tremendous high school career before being part of what is considered the greatest recruiting class in Northern Illinois basketball history. Davis was part of a star-studded class of local stars that headed to DeKalb in 1984, including West Aurora star Kenny Battle, who would later transfer to Illinois.
Davis went on to become one of the best players in NIU history. He's among the top 20 all-time scorers and ranks third all-time in career assists. He was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007 and named to the NIU All-Century Basketball Team.
After free agent tryouts with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, while playing in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), Davis worked eight years in the retail management industry and five years in the investment banking industry.
The corporate world, however, wasn't for Davis. And fortunately for so many young kids today, Davis' exit from corporate America and the vision he had a little over six years ago came to fruition.
"There just came a time where I asked myself, 'What really is fulfilling for me?'" says Davis. "I wanted to create something that was fulfilling."
So in 2005, Davis launched L.I.F.E. Support Incorporated, which is a non-profit services organization providing numerous social services and recreational activities for individuals in the immediate Aurora area.
With what is called the Academic and Athletic Empowerment Program (AAEP), L.I.F.E. is focused on enhancing both academics and athletic skills of middle and high school student athletes and empower individuals through continued education and training. L.I.F.E. focuses on three major components: mentoring/tutoring, health and physical fitness and life skills field trips.
"After six or seven years we're still grinding it out," says Davis of the not-for-profit organization. "We are on the right track. It was certainly a leap of faith at the time, but there are no regrets. I enjoy working with these kids so much. It's been so fulfilling."
Davis, who is also an assistant basketball coach at Aurora University, says L.I.F.E. continues to look for partnerships with corporations, school districts, colleges and universities. And part of building those partnerships and relationships is getting the word out, which Davis continues to strive to do.
Hopefully, a new book written by Davis is another avenue for L.I.F.E. Davis' new book is a terrific, realistic and easy-to-read book titled, "After The Buzzer -- 7 Steps for Winning the Big Game (Life, After the Cheering Stops)."
The book is a sincere and honest look at dealing with life -- athletically, academically and socially -- through the eyes of a former prep and college basketball star. The book focuses on topics such as respect, responsibility, sacrifice, competition, perseverance and trust, with thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter and a workbook journal to write down your own thoughts. He addresses the topic of "When is it time to move on?" and what lies ahead in life, both athletically and outside of the game. It's a book that makes so much sense and should be in the hands of student-athletes.
"The time will come when playing is over," Davis reiterates. "And you have to have a plan. That plan should include building yourself up as an all-around person. You can use athletics in so many ways, including all the success you have with it and all that you learn from it, and then apply it to life."
For more information on the "After The Buzzer," email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to afterthebuzzer.com or lifesupportinc.org.