By DJ Sixsmith
10 years ago, Charlie Davies was supposed to be the next great striker for the US Men’s National team. After playing in the 2008 Olympics, Davies was set to be one of the key players on the 2010 World Cup team. That all changed on October 13, 2009 when Davies fractured his femur, tibia and skull in a car crash on the George Washington Bridge. The crash almost killed the former Boston College star and it took him two years before he stepped foot on a soccer field again.
A car crash is one of the many obstacles Charlie has faced in his life. Davies sat down to talk about his rise through the soccer ranks, what he remembers about his car accident, returning to the field and overcoming cancer. The Philadelphia Union striker also discusses his future in soccer and the lessons he learned from some of the most challenging circumstances any athlete has ever faced.
When did you first realize that you could turn your soccer talent into a career?
Charlie Davies: I knew I wanted soccer to be in my future when I went to the 1994 World Cup. I saw South Korea vs. Bolivia in Massachusetts. Seeing the emotion, passion and fans made me realize that this is what I wanted to do long term. Then I had a tournament when I was 16 years old in Austria. I scored a bicycle kick against the Austrian national team. A scout from Manchester United called my house to ask about my passport situation. That’s when I realized that I could be a professional soccer player and a good one.
Many soccer players in this country dream of playing for the US Men’s National team. You had the opportunity to do that and play in the Olympics. What did that experience mean to you?
CD: It was the experience of a lifetime. When you think of the Olympics, you think of the best sporting event that you could possibly be part of. It was a mind-blowing experience. It was so cool to meet so many different people from around the world. I learned about so many different cultures. I will always be able to tell awesome stories to my kids about my time in Beijing.
You’ve had so many different ups and downs in your life and in your career. It all got started in 2009 when you nearly lost your life in a car accident. What can you still remember from that night?
CD: Nothing. I remember waking up in the hospital with staples running down my stomach. I thought I was in a hostile in Honduras. I was so out of it. I look back now and I’ve been able to move on, but it’s something you never forget. I’ve learned so much as an adult, as a husband and as a player. I’ve learned to not take anything for granted. I’m constantly reminded of the accident by the scars on my body. I’m thankful for a second chance at life. It’s one of those experiences that help you become a better person.
It took you two years to get back on the field. You scored two goals in your first game with the New England Revolution. How special was this moment for you?
CD: Whenever I think about that moment or see that moment, I get goose bumps and chills. I put a ton of pressure on myself to get back on the field and to be an impact player. I wanted to be able to score goals like I used to score them. It was special to be able to score two goals as a substitute in a city that had been so great to me. My doctors and trainers were based in Washington D.C. where I played that first game.
The last couple of months have been extremely difficult for you. Let’s start off with your two twins sons, who were born several months earlier than expected. What was the scariest part of that experience for you?
CD: Where do I even begin? Three days before the start of the season, my wife’s water broke. That was the initial scare. Then she was on bed rest in the hospital for a couple weeks. Next thing I know, the boys are being delivered on St. Patrick’s Day morning at 8am. It’s been a whirlwind since. We didn’t really know what to expect when the boys were born three months premature. I was at the hospital every single day. They’re fighters like their parents. At the same time, I got injured and then the doctors discovered I had a tumor in my groin. Shortly after I learned I had cancer. Those were some of the craziest months of my life.
You and your wife are now both cancer survivors. How did battling cancer compare to the other challenges you’ve overcome in your life?
CD: As you can imagine, finding out I had cancer was the biggest shock of my life. I don’t think anyone is ever prepared to hear the words you have cancer. My initial thinking was that I was going to have to go through chemo and radiation. I assumed the worst. I was very grateful that I had an injury and that my cancer was diagnosed early enough. I didn’t end up needing chemotherapy or radiation. I feel my twin boys saved my life. Without my boys being born early, I wouldn’t have been tired and been in a position to have a muscle pull. It was the best injury of my life. The whole experience was extremely scary for me and my family.
Once of the most admirable parts about your story is the way you’ve remained positive. You even gave yourself the nickname One Nut Chuck? Why did you give yourself that nickname?
CD: I didn’t want the guys to think they had to treat me differently after everything I went through. I didn’t want there to be any awkward feelings. I threw out a nickname before anyone could say anything. Letting guys know that I was One Nut Chuck was a big icebreaker after they found out I had a testicle removed during my cancer treatment. I think it was extremely important to let guys know that I was going to be the same old me.
Finally, you were traded from the New England Revolution to the Philadelphia Union in August? What’s the most important factor in your success going forward?
CD: It’s important to be in the right situation and the right environment. I was presented with an opportunity to come to Philadelphia and I felt it was the right place for me. I now get to play with some of my closest friends in Philly, which is really exciting. The Union are really trying to put together a team that will have a future and a lot of success in a few years. I will be challenged and pushed to improve in Philadelphia. There are a lot of guys who will push me in the right direction. With that being said, I need to work hard and finish chances on the field. I need to score a lot of goals in order to one day achieve my dream of getting back onto the US Men’s National team. The future is bright.
DJ Sixsmith hosts CBS Sports Radio Roundup from 2-6pm. The Fordham University graduate is also a play-by-play announcer who has called games on Fox Sports, ESPN 3 and the Big East Digital Network. Follow DJ on Twitter @DJ_Sixsmith.