Kelly and Thomas met during his rookie season in 2005. They have a blended family that includes four children, ages 5 to 12.
On How Kelly And Thomas First Met:
Kelly Stokes grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. After high school, she went to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., to her degree in biology. Between taking classes, working as a hostess/waitress at Applebee’s, and trying to spend as much quality time as possible with Skyy, her young daughter from a previous relationship, she barely had a social life.
But in the spring of her sophomore year, Kelly and some friends went to Charlotte for a rare night out. They were outside Southend Brewery and Smokehouse, talking to Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Javon Haye, when Javon spotted Thomas in his car, called him over and introduced him to Kelly. They talked for more than an hour. He asked her out, and something told her she should make room for him in her busy schedule. The two talked and dated for a week before Kelly knew Thomas was a Carolina Panther. “I didn’t know he played football until he told me he had to go to practice,” she laughs. Instead of talking shop, they had spent their “get acquainted” time talking about Skyy and Denim, Thomas’ son from a previous relationship. But even though Kelly and Thomas felt a strong attraction to one other, their devotion to their children was stronger. They didn’t meet each other’s kids for months. “I didn’t date much,” explains Kelly, “but when I did, I didn’t introduce my dates to Skyy. I wanted to make sure it was the right person before I brought a man into her life.” When Thomas did meet the little girl, he fell in love with her, just as he had with her mother.
Their relationship grew over the next two years, with Thomas playing football and Kelly continuing to take classes, work at Applebee’s, and be the mom that her daughter needed. In early 2007, with just a few months of college left, Kelly and Thomas discovered they were going to have a baby. Although a bit surprised, they were excited about the news. “I knew eventually we’d get married,” Kelly says. “Something just clicked when we first met. Lots of times he’d even say, ‘When we get married . . .’ – but I had no idea when that would be.”
That spring, Kelly graduated from Winthrop – without Thomas. But not because he didn’t want to be there. “I was sad because Thomas had to go to a mandatory mini-camp and couldn’t come,” she says. “He gave my family and his family video cameras and said that between both of them they had better come up with a good tape!”
After the graduation exercises, about 80 friends and family members came to celebrate with Kelly at Thomas’ house near Ballantyne. Late that afternoon, he arrived home, retrieved a big Nike bag from the office, and gathered everyone into the living room. “Thomas is a real prankster and I had no idea what he was about to do,” Kelly laughs. What he did was propose to her – with a fabulous engagement ring holding seven carats of diamonds, custom made by Martin Delgado of Delgado’s Jewelry.
The couple married on March 22nd, 2008 at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church and held their reception at the Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, NC.
Davis and Kelly formed the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation in 2007, a nonprofit organization that serves underprivileged children with an emphasis on students in middle school. The foundation, which Kelly runs as a volunteer, has distributed more than $500,000 worth of aid since its inception, according to the Panthers. Most of the aid goes to the Charlotte area but also some to South Carolina and Georgia, which is Davis’ home state.
Thomas Davis currently plays linebacker for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
Davis played college football for the University of Georgia, and was recognized as a consensus All-American. He was a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in the 2005 NFL Draft.