By: David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Beth Downer was just an interested observer, standing in a hallway at the Charlotte School of Law, when Thomas Davis was asked about success stories that have come out of his Youth Leadership Academy.
"We have a parent right here," Davis said, pointing to Downer about 10 feet away. "I'll let her tell you."
Listening to the single mom passionately describe how the academy impacted her two children, it didn't take long to understand why Davis, an outside linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, is a finalist to be the Walter Payton Man of the Year, which will be awarded Saturday night in Arizona.
The passion was most evident as Downer described the changes in her 17-year-old son, Derek.