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Our Famous Faces directory shares some of the sports figures who hail from the Carolinas.

Thomas Davis
Shoeless Joe Jackson
Dustin Johnson
Michael Jordan
Sugar Ray Leonard

Thomas Davis

Born March 22, 1983

NFL Star and Walter Peyton Man of the Year

He was born in Georgia, and played for the Georgia Bulldogs, but we’re very proud to claim Thomas Davis as a Carolina Famous Face.  In the sports community, he’s a household name.  As a 12-year NFL Veteran, he has shattered records for the Carolina Panthers.  He’s been to two NFL Pro Bowls, was selected to the All-Pro Team and most impressively, he was awarded the prestigious Walter Peyton Man of The Year Award in 2014. Thomas shares this honor with the likes of Peyton Manning, Junior Seau, John Elway, and Warren Moon... to name a few.

Thomas Davis is incredibly passionate about giving back to his community, is active in his Christian faith and is a loving and devoted husband and father of four beautiful (and talented!) children. He is married to Kelly Davis and they make their home in Waxhaw, a small community south of Charlotte.

His foundation, the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation holds a number of programs throughout the year in Charlotte, NC; Greenville, SC and Shellman, GA. The Foundation works to educate, empower and defend the dreams of more than 1,200 families each year.  Among the Foundation’s programs are these:  

• An annual book bag drive for entire schools that serve low income students.

• The Thomas Davis Youth leadership Academy equips middle school age youth with the practical skills needed to become productive, self-fulfilled, achievement-oriented young adults and community leaders.

• A Thanksgiving Dinner of Hope is held in partnership with the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope in Charlotte, NC, and an annual toy drive distributes toys to more than 600 children in need in Charlotte, Columbia, SC and Shellman, GA.
• The Thomas Davis Youth Football Camp is held in May for 300-500 students, ages 6-16 in Charlotte. There is no charge to attend, and NFL players from across the country volunteer as coaches.

During his Walter Peyton Man of the year acceptance speech, he had this to say to his fellow NFL players: "Take charge.  Dare to be different.  Step up and be a village of guys who make a difference.  Give the media something positive to talk about."  And so he has.  
Watch his acceptance speech and video.

Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation

Shoeless Joe Jackson

July 16, 1887 – December 5, 1951

famous-face-shoeless-joe-jackson“I copied Jackson’s style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen … He’s the guy who made me a hitter.”  Babe Ruth

Joseph Jefferson Jackson was born near Greenville, in Pickens County, South Carolina, the son of a sharecropper. By the time he was seven, he was working at a textiles mill.  He never went to school, a fact which haunted him throughout his lifetime.  (He sometimes asked his wife to sign his name on documents.)

When he was 13, he was invited to play on the company baseball team.  He soon became a celebrity, with his pitching and batting skills. Legend says he got his nickname after removing his new cleats which had caused blisters on his foot.  He hit the ball and ran the bases in his socks, and a heckler called him a “shoeless son of a gun.”  The name stuck.

In 1908, he married and began his professional baseball career with the Philadelphia Athletics.  He played for a number of teams, and in 1911, his batting average was second only to Ty Cobb.  He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1915, and two years later, they won the World Series.  In 1919, he was suspended along with seven other White Sox players after being accused of throwing the previous World Series. The baseball world’s rising star had been tarnished, although in 1921, a Chicago jury acquitted all eight players of any wrong-doing.

Shoeless Joe spent several decades proclaiming his innocence.  In recent years, new facts have surfaced that cast significant doubt on his supposed guilt. The seven other accused players eventually said Jackson was not involved. Journalists have researched and published articles through the years confirming his innocence, although because of the original ruling, he was never named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.   

According to Wikipedia,
In 1933, the Jacksons moved to Greenville, South Carolina. Jackson and his wife opened "Joe Jackson's Liquor Store." which they operated until his death. Legend holds that Ty Cobb and sportswriter Grantland Rice entered the store, with Jackson showing no sign of recognition towards Cobb. After making his purchase, the incredulous Cobb finally asked Jackson, "Don't you know me, Joe?" Jackson replied, "Sure, I know you, Ty, but I wasn't sure you wanted to know me. A lot of them don't."

He died of a heart attack in 1951.  His wife died the same year. His former home has become the Shoeless Joe Jackson Baseball Museum and Library.
More about Greenville.

Dustin Hunter Johnson

Born June 22, 1984

He’s #1

dustin-johnson-famous-caroliniansDustin Johnson is currently ranked #1 professional golfer in the world,  The rank changes according to which tournament he's played, but  he’s been ranked inside the top five for several years and is noted as one of the longest drivers on the PGA Tour.

The golfer was born in Columbia, SC and played golf for Coastal Carolina University, near Myrtle Beach.  He turned pro in late 2007 after graduation and won his first PGA tour event in 2008. He finished the 2016 season as the leading money winner on the PGA Tour (winning the Arnold Palmer Award), had the lowest scoring average, and won both the PGA Player of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year awards.

The Dustin Johnson Golf School at TPC Myrtle Beach is led by Allen Terrell (the player’s golf coach at Coastal Carolina). Allen is a world leader in junior golf, college, adult, and tour player development. Terrell has coached and developed over 200 college golfers in his career. He has coached All-Americans, PGA and European Tour players.

Dustin Johnson is engaged to singer and model Pauline Gretzky, daughter of ice hockey great, Wayne Gretzky.  The couple have two sons.

Image: © David Leindecker l

Michael Jordan

Born February 17, 1963


famous-carolina-faces-michael-jordanWhen basketball season is in full swing, our thoughts always go to famed NBA star and adopted son of North Carolina Michael Jordan. The Jordan Family moved to Wilmington, NC when Michael was a toddler, and he later attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his stellar performance on the basketball team earned him his spot with the Chicago Bulls.

Today, Mr. Jordan maintains his ties with NC, and is principal owner and chairman of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.  He and his wife, Cuban-American model Yvette Prieto have identical twin daughters named Victoria and Ysabel.

Sugar Ray Leonard

Born May 17, 1956

Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion Boxer & more

famous-carolina-faces-sugar-ray-leonardBorn in 1956 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and the fifth of seven children, Sugar Ray Leonard’s competition on Dancing with the Stars in 2011 might have been his first introduction to a younger generation, but baby boomers know him well.

The attractive, affable Leonard began boxing at 14. After moving from Rocky Mount to Wilmington, NC, his family headed north and lived in Washington, D.C., for seven years before settling permanently in Maryland.

Young Leonard won the Olympic Gold Medal at the 1976 Games, and then turned pro, where he became world welterweight boxing champion several times and eventually was named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Since his final retirement, he has worked as a boxing analyst, done a number of commercial endorsements, and worked as an actor. He is sought after as a motivational speaker using the theme Power (Prepare, Overcome, and Win Every Round).  Leonard and his wife, Bernadette, founded the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and he remains active in working toward a cure.