Note: The following appears in the Louisville gameday football program
P.A.W. Journey is a leadership initiative that focuses on football student-athletes on and off the field. P.A.W., stands for “passionate about winning,” and the initiative represents how our student-athletes continue to compete and use the transferable skills of football. P.A.W. Journey aims to cultivate leadership in student-athletes through three main pillars, personal growth, life skills and professional development.
C.U. in Life is the life skills and community service pillar. In the spring and summer of 2018, players had multiple opportunities to participate in various community engagement projects. One such project was a service trip to Costa Rica. Twelve players participated in over 920 hours of service, leading to the construction of three houses and one road.
Striped is the personal growth pillar featuring 30 P.A.W. Journey ambassadors. These ambassadors engage in player-led monthly meetings promoting change within their team. All players also participated in the annual player symposium, where they identified their individual and team values for the season.
Fifth Quarter is the career and professional development pillar. This pillar provides multiple professional-skill workshops for players. This pillar also provides players with the opportunity to participate in microinternships. In 2018, 28 players participated in internships at five different company sites across the United States, including Raleigh, Atlanta, San Francisco and Greenville.
Graduate linebacker J.D. Davis is one of many players who has been impacted by P.A.W. Journey since its inception. A P.A.W. Journey ambassador, Davis has been involved in all three pillars of P.A.W. Journey.
“I’ve had the opportunity to go on mission trips, but instead I’ve been blessed to be able to go on two microinternships with billion-dollar companies like Cisco and Adobe, so that’s been really exciting.
“There’s a large amount of community service hours I’ve been able to contribute and do because of the opportunities that P.A.W. Journey gives us, and to go along with that, it’s given me so many opportunities to become a better man. If it comes to meeting with a mentor or going somewhere and having to speak publicly, those are all things that can help me grow and become a better man.”
Davis spoke highly of his many experiences with P.A.W. Journey.
Former defensive end and graduate student Richard Yeargin, who retired from football earlier this year, echoed many of Davis’ sentiments. Also an ambassador, Yeargin has developed a special relationship with P.A.W. Journey founder Jeff Davis, and this relationship has helped Yeargin develop his faith and character.
Yeargin has also been involved in mentoring young people in nearby Anderson as well as participating in events like Kicks, Cleats & Kids and children’s hospital visits. Like Davis, Yeargin was able to participate in multiple internships, working with the Store Support Center in Atlanta and a summer internship with Trammell & Mills Law Firm.
“These experiences have been very impactful given my current decision to retire from football,” said Yeargin. “P.A.W. Journey has prepared me for the next steps in my life and equipped me with a plethora of wisdom and tools to be successful.”
Yeargin has enjoyed being able to find his identity and has learned many lessons through his time with P.A.W. Journey, all of which he will carry with him through life.
“Through P.A.W. Journey, I have learned to live free every day and walk confidently in who God has created me to be. I have learned to be an independent thinker, a man of integrity, a professional, an entrepreneur and a better father/husband to my future family…but most of all, a servant leader, never asking someone to do something that I myself am not willing to do.”
Having lived the experience, Davis and Yeargin provide a glimpse into the benefits of P.A.W Journey. From community service to professional development, P.A.W. Journey focuses on the person and the holistic growth of football student-athletes. Davis and Yeargin are two of the numerous players whose lives have been touched by P.A.W. Journey.