NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Don Davey has accomplished a lot in his life. The former Jaguars and Packers defensive lineman is still the only four-time Academic All-America football player in history. He earned a mechanical engineering degree at Wisconsin. He has completed Ironman Triathlons, become a successful businessman, is a franchisee for Firehouse Subs and continues to do charitable work in the Jacksonville community. All of those important aspects of his past came together with the Viktre Challenge, an effort to raise money to return electrical power to Puerto Rico.
"Quite honestly, until I saw for myself, I didn't realize how bad things were down there," Davey said.
Davey and former NFL fullback Tony Richardson traveled to Puerto Rico to see the damage on the island, four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory.
"(In the) hospital (in Vieques) there was a baby being born in the tents. You could hear the screaming and crying," Davey said. "The doctor said 'Three months ago, when a baby came it died, because we didn't have the facility to take her in and put her anywhere.'"
Davey is one of a number of former professional athletes who are competing to raise the most money for the Puerto Rico Foundation.
"It's a competition," Davey said. "There are six of us, current and former pro athletes who are competing against each other to raise the most money to bring power back to Puerto Rico. What J.J. Watt proved is that it doesn't take much. J.J. raised $37 million over the course of seven days for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. "
Above and beyond the charitable aspect, there is a potential benefit for donors to the campaign as well-a chance to spend time with some world-class athletes.
"We're actually having a lighting ceremony in Puerto Rico in March," Davey said. "After this challenge is done we're going to take the money we raised and we are going to present it to the Foundation of Puerto Rico, and we're coordinating this with the Ironman that is run in Puerto Rico."
If Davey has his wish, the Viktre Challenge will not only return power to Puerto Rico, but help to create lasting infrastructure that will fundamentally improve life on the island, as he saw at a Boys & Girls Club in Vieques, where Tesla put solar panels on the roof and a battery pack on the wall to get the lights back on.
"Instantly, there was a place for hundreds of children to go while we wait to get the schools back up," Davey said. "Every dollar we raise, in my mind, I'm envisioning, 'That's another school, that's another church, that's another place of business, that's another hospital, that's another water treatment facility.' The more money we raise, the more of these places we can get back on line. Literally, we're saving people's lives down there."
Davey has already recruited a number of his former teammates, including Mark Brunell,and other former NFL stars, including former rushing champion Christian "The Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye, to help the cause. Davey and former Chiefs kicker Nick Lowry are the Pro Football team captains. If you want to help by donating or just by spreading the word, go to ViktreChallenge.com. The challenge runs through Feb. 28.