New Blue true fighter

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

It's an image Winnipeg football fans likely haven't forgotten: defensive lineman Nate Davis lifting his leg like a dog over fallen Bomber quarterback Khari Jones.

It was the 2003 West semifinal. Davis's Saskatchewan Roughriders were putting the boots to the Bombers, and the big guy was having a ball.

It hasn't always been that way for the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder from Indiana.

In fact, there was a time the game of football sent Davis spiraling down into his own personal hell.

"A lot of it came from football, what pushed me over the edge," Davis, now a Blue Bomber, was saying from his Regina home yesterday. "At the time, the last thing I wanted to do was be on the football field."

Davis, 33, suffers from bipolar disorder, the symptoms of which include severe mood swings and depression.

For years he didn't know what was wrong -- he just knew he was miserable.

"I might not leave the house for two or three weeks, sometimes," he said. "The whole thing came to a head for me back in '97."

At the time, Davis was a rookie with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. A second-round draft pick, his future looked bright. From the outside, anyway.

"I had a breakdown," Davis said. "I just started crying. Couldn't stop. I finished practice, crying the whole time. And I got into the shower, (someone asked) 'What's wrong?' And I just started crying again. I went to the trainer and said, 'Something's wrong.' "

What should have been the most exciting time of Davis's life is now a black hole in his memory.

"It was a really rough time," he said. "The years I was in the NFL was probably one of the more unhappy times in my life. It was hard for me to feel good about anything."

As is typical of those with the disorder, Davis tried to spend his way out of depression. A $7,000 watch. A $15,000 stereo system. Three motorcycles. The list goes on.

"I was doing it because it made me feel better right away," he said. "I had plenty of money at the time, and you figure you can buy anything and make yourself happy. And you can't."

By 2001, his NFL dream over, Davis came to Canada.

But it wasn't until about three years ago that he began to get a handle on his depression.

He says moving to Regina, and the change of scenery, helped. He also stopped relying on medication.

"I've taken a bit more spiritual approach to life," Davis said. "Not necessarily religious, just a more spiritual approach. I think those things have worked together ... the environment I'm in up here, the friends I have around me that know about it and understand it. Having people around me that know about it and help out, that's a big part of it."

People like Saskatchewan linebacker Reggie Hunt, who tries to get Davis out of the house once or twice a week.

Davis still battles the illness. Some days he'll drive to the gym for a workout, only to turn back when he reaches the parking lot.

But he knows his bouts with depression are only temporary.

"I don't wake up pissed off every day, anymore," he said. "It's something I'll deal with probably for the rest of my life."

Realizing he's near the end of his career, Davis would dearly love to win a championship before he leaves, something that's eluded him through high school, college and the pros.

He plans on winning over Bomber fans, too, despite what they remember him for.

"The first time I smash someone in the mouth wearing blue and gold, I don't think the past will matter too much," Davis said.

After all, leaving the past behind is what he's been doing for years.


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