When Bucs guard Davin Joseph looks at Middleton High's football field, he sees more than the current structure. • Joseph envisions a renovated stadium with a collegiate track, more bleachers, more access for concession vendors and a new scoreboard. He sees the venue hosting football and soccer games, band competitions and community events, with the profits supporting the school's athletic and performing arts programs. • He sees the stadium serving as a bright light in an East Tampa community that sometimes is darkened by crime, poverty and hopelessness. • "We want to give the community something to be proud of," Joseph said. "We want to open it up to have local businesses be a part of it, and for the residents to be a part of it. It's still in the works but it's something we're excited about." • The proposal, still in its infant stages, is just one of the ideas Joseph hopes to infuse through his foundation, Davin's Dream Team. The two-time Pro Bowler has spent the 2012 regular season off the field, recovering from the torn right patellar tendon he suffered in a preseason game. • He's devoted considerable energy to rehabbing the injury at 1 Buc Place, but he's also had time to refocus his foundation efforts, which seek to enhance athletic and performing arts programs in inner-city areas and includes a specific focus on Middleton and Blake high schools. • Joseph has designed a new foundation brochure, and participated in a recruiting program for the United Way Tampa Bay that drew 1,500 new volunteers. • Joseph recently shared thoughts about the foundation with Times columnist Ernest Hooper.
How difficult has rehab been, because I'm not sure the average fan understands the frustration?
Every rehab is different but really with the Buccaneers, they really have a great training staff: the strength and conditioning coaches, along with the athletic trainers and the rehab specialists. I spend my time up there and they really work on everything. When you're working with the best of the best, it's not as hard, but the competitive nature of an athlete is to always want to beat the odds, to always challenge yourself, push yourself — a little too far sometimes. That's what's so different about being in rehab because you really have to listen. When they say you can't do something, that's not motivation to do that something anyway — that means you can't do it.
If you devoted most of your time to rehab and put the foundation on hold, everyone would understand. But you didn't do that. It is your profession.
All things happen for a reason. For me not to be able to play football this season was disappointing, but it gave me more time to devote to my foundation, my family. I've really enjoyed getting to know people in Tampa and I've enjoyed being at home, being able to spend more time with my son (Ali). He's getting older. He's 9 and he's getting more active in sports and really learning and discovering himself. It's been enjoyable, although Sundays are still sad days.
What have you done to improve the foundation?
I started from scratch, really. I was able to go back in and see where I haven't done a good job. The overall goal of a foundation is to give a clear understanding of what your purpose is. So every foundation has to start with its mission statement. At one point, we were getting away from our mainstream cause, so we had to start from scratch — putting together some new ideas and getting our message across to the public. What does the Davin Joseph Foundation and Davin's Dream Team do. I think it's been a success.
Tell me more about Davin's Dream Team.
Davin's Dream Team is a group of people that is all about the education, health and participation of our youth. There are a lot of different organizations that deal with youth, but we're all separate, we all stay in our lanes. What we're trying to do with Davin's Dream Team is create a complete package of volunteers, mentors, students, principals, teachers that are just about those three main goals: health, participation and education. We're trying to work with other nonprofits and fill in the gaps for Blake High School and Middleton High School.
What drives you to operate the foundation?
That's a good question. It's been something that I've had in me — that nature to give back — but it's growing, and it's growing, and it's growing. It's almost like I'm addicted now. I had a taste of it when I was in college, and you meet some great people along the way and they give back and they do great things and you see it and you say, "Just being a part of that was awesome." Then you get to the league and I have guys like Derrick Brooks and Michael Clayton in the locker room, and you meet Warrick Dunn, and you see the things they're doing. I've met a lot of great people that gave back to the community, so I was influenced. So I got started with one event and then two events and then three events. Now I'm so far in I don't want to get out.
What's the sense you get when you meet some of the kids you're helping?
It takes me back to when I was their age and how hard it is to stay motivated, how hard it is to stay focused. And they probably have it worse than I did when I was a kid because of all the distractions. When I meet kids, it keeps me motivated because they're why I'm doing it. I had a roundtable discussion at Middleton High School last week, and they asked me what keeps me motivated. I said, "I'm doing it for you guys to be successful." What you really want to do is develop a culture, a sense of pride about where they're from so they will go back and give back to their community. The kids keep me grounded, keep me humble. Everybody has a story and to hear their stories about where they're from and their challenges help me learn as a leader. As much as they want to learn from me, I want to learn from them.
Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.