Sept. 13, 2008
An Ultimatum: How Rehab, Religion and Football Saved Jeremy Davis
Looking at his life three years ago, Jeremy Davis couldn't have imagined being where he is right now - a first-team All-American with championship-game experience, a captain for a big-time football program, married with a beautiful 2-year-old daughter…and sober.
Davis was a self-admitted drug addict. It started with drinking and getting high as a teenager, got worse when he attended the University of Houston and nearly killed him when he returned home to Port Neches, Texas, after being asked to leave Houston's football program.
Davis was married and had a daughter right out of high school, but went through a divorce during his hard times back home. He worked sparingly for Pat Pairsh, his grandfather, at his construction company.
"I had some type of structure with football," said Davis. "But back home I didn't. I wasn't working often, wasn't living right and things got out of control fast. My life was in danger."
Davis was arrested several times for his drug use until his grandfather finally presented him with an ultimatum.
"My grandpa was watching Dr. Phil and learned of La Hacienda Treatment Center near San Antonio," said Davis. "He told me you're going to rehab or you're out of my life.
"I knew I had a problem so I went and checked in. That first week was powerful. Some people had been there 20 years. I developed this relationship with God and it changed my life. I've been sober since Sept. 15, 2005. No alcohol. No drugs."
Katherine "Kat" Speck checked herself into La Hacienda two days after Davis. She, too, has been substance-free ever since and took Jeremy's name the following spring.
"Of the people in our recovery group, we're the only two that are still sober," said Davis. "It's like an 11-percent recovery rate and they tell you if you get into a relationship too soon, you're not going to make it. Here we are three years later. It's pretty amazing."
Jeremy and Kat completed the 30-day program in Hunt, Texas, and moved 12 miles down the road to Kerrville where they stayed in sober living houses.
"We elected to do that to stay sober, but it was a good opportunity to work with other addicts," said Davis. "It's amazing how many people struggle with this and how many people don't make it. I think God allowed us to go through a lot of this stuff just to help other people."
The couple stayed in Kerrville for six months until the opportunity of playing football again presented itself.
Kenny Hansmier, a friend of Pairsh, started the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game. He's also the founder of the National Child Identification Program backed by the FBI and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). It was at an AFCA board meeting that Hansmier met Mel Tjeerdsma.
"Kenny told me Jeremy's story at a convention three years ago," said Tjeerdsma. "I told him the best thing was to have him up for a visit."
Hansmier, Davis and Pairsh made the trip to Maryville in March of 2006, Jeremy and Kat were married in April and the couple moved to Missouri on Independence Day.
"Northwest seemed right," said Davis. "I could tell Coach T was an honorable and respectable person. He hadn't seen any film and knew nothing about me, but allowed me to walk-on. I got three years of football back and it seemed like the pieces were coming together."
Davis weighed 295 pounds as a member of Houston's football program. He was at 235 when he checked into La Hacienda and was at 325 when he arrived at Northwest.
"I was too heavy and too out of shape that first year when I split time on the line," said Davis. "That offseason, I took it upon myself to get fit. I started eating right, cut out soda and drank a lot of water. All I had to do was change my diet."
Davis lost 50 pounds and weighed 285 last season. He started all 14 games at right guard and was named a first-team All-American lineman by Don Hansen's Football Gazette.
"I knew what I was getting with Jeremy and was willing to take a chance," said Tjeerdsma. "I'm glad I did. He's been a real inspiration to a lot of kids on our team.
"It doesn't happen often that a transfer becomes one of our captains. I think that speaks volumes of what he's like, how his life has changed and the direction it's gone since."
The Davis' attend the same church as Mel and wife, Carol. Kat works at Golden Living Center in town and with daughter, Ella, are Jeremy's biggest fans on game day.
"My wife gets me through a lot," said Davis. "We hadn't been married long when I asked her to move to Missouri. I don't know if I could have done it without her."
Madison, the daughter from Davis' first marriage, has also attended Bearcat games and is a second-grader in Fort Neches. Davis plans to move his family closer to home and closer to Madison after graduating from Northwest.
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