Panthers' Thomas Davis donates $15K for Harding HS state champ rings

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Harding University High School's football team's prayers were answered all thanks to Carolina Panthers' defensive linebacker Thomas Davis.

It was on Thursday that Channel 9 told viewers that the team was struggling to pay for rings after the team won its first state championship since 1953.

The team finished off a 14-1 season with a 30-22 win over Scotland County in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A state championship game in Winston-Salem.

The rings cost about $400 apiece, so the school was trying to raise about $20,000.

Less than 24 hours after Channel 9's story aired, Davis made a huge donation to help the football team get its players and coaches championship rings.

Davis confirmed to Channel 9 anchor John Paul through a tweet that he donated $15,000 to the team.

Head coach Sam Greiner was on the Power 98 FM radio Friday morning when Davis called in and said he would help out.

"Don't worry about it, we'll just pay the rest. So that's what we're going to do, we're going to pay the rest of that money you all need, so you can get y'all rings," Davis said on the radio.

Davis said he saw the story about a GoFundMe page that was started by the community to help raise money so the team could buy state championship rings.

[LINK: Fundraising page]

The GoFundMe page has raised more than $7,000 and has continued to grow, even after Davis donated the money.

Quarterback Braheam Murphy said he can't believe that Davis helped them out.

"Our family, we don't have a lot of money for people to help out. It is really a blessing," Murphy said.

Davis bought all 60 rings and the team didn't waste any time. By 8 a.m. Friday, the players were already getting fitted for their state championship rings.

"He just said he saw everything that we done, that we came up from and he was going to help out," Murphy said.

Channel 9 reached out to Davis and asked about the donation, but he declined an interview. He said he didn't do it for publicity and said it's all about the kids.

The team also signed thank you cards for the all the donors who have stepped in to help them out.

The head coach's impact on the team

Greiner accepted the position two years ago, the football program was one of the worst in the state, winning just one game in both 2014 and 2015.

The players didn't have uniforms until the coach’s church bought them. They still practice on a beat-up baseball field and they have to dress behind the stands.

"If someone wrote a movie script about everything that's happened, they would think it's a fairy tale,” Greiner said. “They wouldn't think it's real life.”

Channel 9 asked what expenses Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools cover and was told it provides for game officials, security and coaching stipends.

Everything else is up to the school, families or the booster club.

Harding doesn't have a booster club, and a majority of the students’ families don't have the money.

"We have kids on our rosters that don't really have homes. They really don't know what they're going to eat (from) day to day," Greiner said.

When head coach Sam Greiner accepted the position two years ago, the football program was one of the worst in the state, winning just one game in both 2014 and 2015. (WSOCTV.com)

(Sam Greiner)

Greiner, and his church, created a family before building a state championship-caliber team.

The church provides meals before games.

Greiner let Murphy, who was homeless, live with him.

"I have two daughters because I think the good Lord knew I had enough sons, coaching football," Greiner said.

"It's just crazy how everything changed. I never thought it would be this way. Everyone always though Harding would be bad. We changed the culture and left our legacy," Murphy said.

The team's Cinderella story couldn't have a better ending and Grenier said the team's faith could move mountains, after all, they have been through.

"The world needs to see this. There is still good things going on. Great things," Grenier said.

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