Davis Challenges DC Area Youth at His Former High School
to Become MVPs Both on and off the Field
by Improving Their Classroom GPAs and Attendance Records
With Support From a Free 10-Week Academic and
Sports Mentoring Program He Launches Tomorrow
"I grew up like many of the student athletes at Dunbar, with little money, but lots of commitment and a drive to achieve something better for my life," says Davis. "Most of my friends growing up are either in jail today or dead and I know this would not be the case if they had gone to college. So this program is about giving young men the academic support they need to succeed, not only in high school and college sports, but in life."
The curriculum will be taught by some of the leading academic instructors in the Washington, DC area where a number of educators in the public school system estimate that as many as 40% of 9th grade students do not return to high school for their 10th grade year.
"The whole purpose of teaching is to awaken the natural curiosity of young minds," says Dunbar Senior High School Assistant Principal Semanthe Bright, who is heartened by this program which she believes will help make college a more certain reality for young students who might otherwise miss the life changing opportunity.
"You need something to look forward to when you're working hard and giving your all," says Davis, who plans to spend a day in DC with all of the student participants and has also created additional incentives to encourage them along. Students with the most improved SAT test scores, consistent and improved classroom attendance and those who demonstrate leadership qualities in school will receive iPads and gift bags full of San Francisco 49ers paraphernalia, among other things.
Siraaj Hasan, President and co-founder of the Lifting As We Climb Foundation, which will run this program, says having NFL players, especially a history making star such as Vernon Davis, maintain a presence with these young men can help save lives. "Vernon showing up shows he cares and that helps inspire these young men," says Hasan.
Davis's longtime off-season trainer Myron Flowers, a Washington, DC-based sports performance veteran who has been working with Davis for nearly a decade since his college years at the University of Maryland, will run the program's athletic training curriculum. Flowers, who will be with Davis this weekend in San Francisco where the 49ers will play against The New York Giants for a shot at the Super Bowl, says Davis' involvement in this program brings his notoriety in the world of sports full circle. "I couldn't be more proud of Vernon for giving back to kids who are just like he was and helping to shape the lives of these young men."
But there is also more going on here than old school genre homage: it's also a solidly executed example of such an inspirational entertainer, equal parts excitement and heart. In the former category, Hemingway has fun using all the decidedly un-retro 2012 Industrial Light and Magic digital effects toys at his disposal for the many aerial warfare sequences. Given that this is a Lucasfilm Ltd. production, similarities to Star Wars (most specifically, the original) will inevitably be called out, but that's not exactly an insult for action filmmaking. What has long proven to work with X-Wings and TIE Fighters very much translates in thrilling fashion to an Earthbound combat context.
None of characters here are based on any specific real-life figures, and as such they fall for the most part into conventional character types; that said, they are all lent human dimension by the actors. Given the size of the cast (Tristan Wilds, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Michael B. Jordan, Method Man, Andre Royo, Marcus T. Paulk, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Terrence Howard are among the recognizable faces here), some of men in the unit inevitably get more screen attention than others, but serving as an equalizing force is the unforced and genuine camaraderie between the guys, helped by some amusing banter from Ridley and McGruder's pen. That chemistry is especially evident between the lead buddy pair of Nate Parker and, the certain breakout of the ensemble, David Oyelowo. As, respectively, the hard-drinking captain and reckless daredevil of the group, they forge a believably brotherly tough love rapport and have the effortless gravitas to sell and serve as a compelling emotional anchor for all the action.
But, of course, what makes this film that is (per the opening titles) "inspired by real events" certain to inspire future real events is the enduring legacy of the Airmen. If Red Tails isn't quite the information-heavy lecture of a historical drama some may be expecting, the Tuskegee Airmen's genuine spirit of courage, dedication, and brotherhood is rather fittingly honored and embodied by what is a rousing adventure picture.