Jim Davis is out to live his dream, to step on the field as a professional football player just once.

LEWISTON – Vince Papale, the subject of the inspirational movie Invincible, was 30 when he realized his dream of playing in the National Football League.

Jim Davis is 12 years older than Papale was when he finally suited up for the Philadelphia Eagles. But the former Marine is determined to inspire others with a Papale-like mission to play professional football, despite never having played the game in high school or college.

“The goal is, just for one play, to be able to step on the field as a professional football player at the age of, at that time I’d be 43,” he said. “That would be a feat. But it all just comes back to inspiring the kids.”

Davis, who recently moved to Lisbon Falls with his wife and three sons, hopes to take his message nationwide with a couple of national television appearances. He’s already played semi-pro football, arena football and tried out for a Canadian Football League team. He says he’s contacted and/or sent tapes to every NFL team and even heard back from a few, but the teams can’t get past his age and relative lack of football background.

“I think it’s the philosophy of the management of the team,” he said. “They have a very closed view of what a football player is. It’s really the culture of NFL football.”

A business professor at Andover College and Kennebec Valley Community College, Davis runs and lifts weights three times a week. He says he can run the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and bench presses 485 pounds.

He spent 10 years in the Marine Corps, where he won a pair of natural body building titles. But it wasn’t until he was coaching junior high and high school football in Indiana that he got the idea of playing and seeing how far he could go.

“One day we were outside just messing around, playing some football,” he said. “I ended up joining in the game and nobody could tackle me, so they were like, ‘Man, you ought to go play some college ball,’ or something like that.”

The 6-foot, 210-pound Davis played his first real game for the Evansville Vipers, a semi-pro team in Indiana, when he was 41. After playing fullback for them for a year, he joined a minor league arena football team and played briefly at linebacker before being cut. Last year, a CFL scout invited him to a tryout for the Ottawa Renegades. He was scheduled to go to their training camp, but the team had ownership problems and folded before this season started.

The family moved to Maine so his wife, Jeanne, could be closer to her family, but that hasn’t curtailed Davis’ plan. He’s scheduled to try out for the Spike TV show, Pros vs. Joes, in November. He’s already taped an appearance on the Greg Behrendt Show, on an episode entitled “Second Chances”, which is expected to air next month.

“It was great. They treated my wife and I like royalty,” he said. “It’s not a Jerry Springer type show. Going out there I was concerned. I asked my wife ‘You don’t have anything to tell me, do you?’ We went out there on the show, they treated us great.”

Producers on the show tried to get an NFL team to give Davis a tryout, but had no takers. The L.A. Avengers of the Arena Football League agreed to give him a look in November, though. He also hopes to get another CFL team interested before next season.

“If I can’t do it, I want it to be because somebody tells me, ‘You’re not good enough. You can’t play at this level,'” said Davis, who hopes to coach again if he doesn’t play. “If somebody tells me that, I’ll be satisfied.”

“My mission is to show kids that regardless of where you come from, as long as you work hard, you can achieve your goal,” he added.

An ordained Southern Baptist minister, Davis said his three sons, ages 9, 13 and 14, inspire him.

“If I didn’t have sons, I probably wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place. I’m the type of father that if I tell them something can be done, then I’m going to show them,” he said.

Still, the family worries about Jim getting hurt. Asked if his father should try to play linebacker or running back, Cameron, the eldest son, said, “Definitely not a running back.”

And Davis knows he doesn’t have much longer to realize his dream before his body can’t take the punishment of playing football.

“I would say I have two or three more years in me where I can play a contact sport like that before I’m going to be leery about getting hurt,” he said.

“I guess your dreams can run out also,” he added. “The best you can do is play out the journey to get to that goal. But there comes a time where you have to understand that maybe it wasn’t about the goal at all. Maybe it was the journey getting there.”



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