‘They’re building bridges between communities’: Triad natives on Davidson College football team work to build sense of community

In Black and White

DAVIDSON, N.C. (WGHP) — College football season is almost here. Teams are practicing and getting ready for the season. As they prepare, some are also reflecting on the life lessons they learned last season.

Two players on Davidson College’s football team who are from the Piedmont Triad led some really important conversations there.

“As you’ve heard so much over the past few years, we’re all more than athletes,” Nick Baker said. “We’re people first.”

For the Davidson College football team, their humanity means opening up.

“2020 was a rough time for everyone,” Baker said. “A lot of conversations about race. A lot of tough conversations that a lot of people didn’t want to have, but were necessary to have.”

Baker is a senior cornerback. He graduated from Page High School in Greensboro. He helped lead the effort. Shifting their focus from the field to their screens, a one-hour Zoom call turned into three hours. From Zoom it went to the rest of the Davidson campus.

“A lot of people got stuff off their chest that in a world like today is very cautious to do. So we were very vulnerable. And I felt like that really allowed us to grow together, grow as a team, and really bring us together as one,” he said.

“It was really important for us to come as a team together just to hear each other’s concerns, especially the Black members of our team,” Bradyn Oakley said.

Oakley plays slot at Davidson. He played his high school ball at Western Alamance.

“I feel like we come up with a great understanding of each other. We may not grow up in the same situations… but our coaching staff at Western Alamance did a great job preaching to us even though we come from different situations we’re all a part of that team,” he said.

Student-athletes around the country have been having and leading these conversations over the last year. Baker and Oakley say these conversations are important because once they leave this field, they’re people and they’re still part of the larger community.

“I’m extremely proud of our group of men, both on the field and off the field,” head coach Scott Abell said. “Nick and Bradyn are just two great examples of the type of work our guys are doing. They’re building bridges between communities. They’re building bridges on this campus.”

Baker has been building bridges since his days at Page. He was part of Team Voyage. It’s a student organization made up of Black male students. It was formed to break stereotypes.

“It was really just learning about leadership, how to have those conversations, how to guide them. Just being a pillar for openness, being a pillar for love, being a pillar for togetherness,” he said.

Oakley says the lessons of the last year helped when he came home and worked with the guys from his old team in the weight room. FOX8 asked what he’d like people here to take away from his experience.

“I would just encourage them to understand each other’s differences, racial, religious, whatever kind of differences those are and just come together and have those uncomfortable conversations and come together as a community.”

And just like football, nothing will change overnight. Change takes reps.

“You have to deal with adversity,” Oakley said. “You have something you need to improve on, it doesn’t change with one practice. You have to continue working on it and that’s the lessons we learn here in football just translate well to life.”

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