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Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis greets fans, talks retirement while visiting North Charleston

February 20, 2017

After she suffered a torn ACL two years ago, Frances Deschenes sought advice about recovering from her injury. So she tweeted Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, someone with extensive experience with knee injuries.

Deschenes, a graduate of North Carolina State, was surprised when Davis responded.

“He told me to do my workouts, stay strong, and that I’ll get back at it,” Deschenes said. “It meant a lot for him to tweet back at me.”

It meant even more for the longtime Panthers fan to have her No. 58 jersey signed by Davis himself, who was in North Charleston over the weekend to greet fans at Butter Tapas. Davis’ close friend and former personal chef, April Robinson, is the owner of the restaurant.

“This game is driven by the fans,” Davis said. “They support and believe in us, and so what does it take to send out a tweet?”

Fans were able to take pictures with Davis, get Panthers memorabilia signed, and one fan even had Davis step outside to sign his Dodge Charger.

“It’s humbling to see him show support to his fans in Charleston,” said Dante Champaigne after posing in a picture with Davis. “For him to still be in the NFL playing, and to come here in the offseason … it’s huge for us.”

Davis spent more than two hours signing Panthers gear and items representing the University of Georgia, which is where he played before being picked by Carolina in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

He also engaged with fans, encouraging the youngsters to smile and cracking jokes with the adults.

“You’re a lot smaller than I thought you’d be,” one woman said from across the room.

“Thanks,” he replied.

The woman followed with, “But it makes what you do on the field even more impressive.”

Davis, 33, is approaching his 13th season in the NFL and is entering the final year of a two-year, $18 million contract. The Panthers drafted Davis in 2005 with the 14th overall pick.

The Shellman, Ga. native isn’t ruling out retirement once he completes this season, even though he proved that he still has a lot left in the tank.

“It’s really a situation where you have to take it one season at a time,” he said. “This is my last year under contract and so my plan is to finish this year strong and see how my body feels after that.”

Though his career has been a successful one, it has also been plagued by injuries. In fact, Davis missed the entire 2010 season due to an ACL tear. He’s had three tears on the same knee.

In the 2016 NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals, Davis suffered a broken arm. He still managed to play in the Super Bowl just two weeks later, making seven tackles.

Davis said he’ll be open to discussions if the Panthers want him to come back. Carolina is the only NFL team Davis has ever played for, and he said he wants to keep it that way.

“It’s a great organization and I don’t want to play for anyone else,” he said. “But honestly, I’m just focusing on giving it my all and finishing this next season.”