This week, former San Diego State basketball player Trimaine Davis was named an Honorary Captain for Sunday’s Super Bowl. This honor was given to Davis because of his exceptional work helping students bridge the Digital Divide.
In addition to being on the field to participate in the coin toss, Davis and his fellow honorees will be featured in a new poem written for the occasion by Amanda Gorman. Gorman, who inspired the nation with her poetry during President Joe Biden’s inauguration, will recite the poem before kickoff. Davis, of course, is a source of inspiration in his own right.
“There’s a lot of things about me on paper that will say I’m not supposed to be who I am,” Davis said. “I am a foster child. I was a ward of the state. Thankfully my paternal grandmother adopted me when I was three years old. For nine years out of my thirteen years in education — K through 12 — I was in Special Education. My mother passed away when I was 14. She passed away the day I was supposed to move in with her. My father passed away a year and a half after that. My best friend passed away a week before we graduated high school. That’s why I wore the number 20 at San Diego State. It was to honor my best friend, Greg Ashford, which was his number in high school…all those things made me that much more determined to get where I am.”
Amongst the millions of frontline heroes, the NFL choose Davis and two others to honor. How did the NFL learn about Davis’ incredible work? That story begins back in 1999 and the hiring of Steve Fisher at San Diego State.
Fisher inherited one of the worst programs in America. To change the culture, anyone connected to the program in the past, from the assistant coaches to the student managers were dismissed. There was one person; however, Fisher retained from his predecessor, Angela LaChica.
“It’s a crazy world,” Fisher said. “When I came here, Angela was a student manager. I wasn’t sure I wanted to have her back. I wanted to make a clean sweep. I wanted to start afresh. She came in and said, ‘Trust me, coach. Give me an opportunity, and you won’t regret it.’ And we did, and we haven’t (regretted it). She was a great advocate for Trimaine to put him on a platform to receive this honor.”
Fittingly reached by phone on February 3, the 35th Annual Women in Sports Day, LaChica shared her part of the story.
“I was the only female student manager, and I was the only one left on from the previous coach,” LaChica said. “(Fisher) was pretty traditional and wasn’t sure how he felt about a female being around — you have to remember this was over twenty years ago now — and I just begged him. I went into his office and said, ‘Coach, I want to make this my career. I’m committed to this. Please, please, please. I won’t let you down. Just give me a chance.'”
“He ended up giving me a chance, and that really changed the trajectory of my professional career. And I really think it changed his outlook on having me…I was the first female manager that he had ever recognized on senior night four years later. I went on all the road trips. I became his head manager.”
Following her graduation from SDSU, LaChica earned her Master’s Degree in Sports Management and, in 2007, founded LaChica Sports, a women-led public relations firm. One of LaChica Sports’ clients is the Player’s Coalition. The Player’s Coalition, founded by former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin, and current Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, works with more than 1,400 coaches, athletes, and owners around the country to promote social justice and racial equality. LaChica is the organization’s Managing Director.
The NFL’s League Office reached out to the Players Coalition for recommendations of frontline heroes who they could honor at the Super Bowl.
“We quickly thought Trimaine would be a ‘no-brainer’ for this particular honor,” LaChica said. “I ran it past some of the players, and they agreed. We provided the background. There was a lot of back and forth. We made sure the (NFL) knew everything he had done in the pandemic, and in the years prior to that.”
“We were students together. I traveled with Trimaine (as part of the basketball team). We had study hall together, so I have known him for forever. I have seen him grow. I have seen his commitment. More importantly, I see what kind of heart he has and how he influences so many people.”
The focal point of Sunday’s honor will be deservedly centered on the work Davis is currently doing. Still, that work was fostered and mentored by an exceptional person and coach nearly two decades ago.
“This is as much your honor as it is mine,” Davis told Fisher, “because, without you, I would not be here. And I will never forget that.”
“Coach Fisher is just heaven on earth, and he was just incredible,” LaChica said. “All roads lead back to coach Fisher, in my opinion, because he changed the trajectory of my career. I may not have been in this position if he had not changed his mind 20 years ago. I want to give him a shout out every time I can.”
Part of what makes sports exceptional is the people involved in them. The connections and relationships formed last a lifetime. Early this basketball season, current Aztec star Matt Mitchell pointed to this networking as one of the main benefits to his return to school instead of entering the NBA Draft.
Coach Fisher could never have predicted a student manager would later rise to a place of influence inside the NFL to highlight the work of one his players, but he did create a culture that prioritized life on the court as the catalyst for a better life off of it.
“One thing about sports, especially at the college level,” Fisher explained, “is in order to sustain and stay with it, you have to win. So you have to have people who can help provide success on the court to be able to have the everlasting effect off of the court.”
“It reminds me of a quote. I’ll paraphrase John Wooden. Someone came to him and said, ‘Coach, what kind of team do you have?’ And he said, ‘See me in 20 years, and I’ll tell you.’”
Fisher, Davis, and LaChica were together at San Diego State in 2003. It has been nearly twenty years, but it is already abundantly clear. From the coaching staff to the players and even the student managers, coach Fisher truly had one special team.