Retired athletes have found a welcoming home in the CBD industry, and few ex-ballers are more welcome in Colorado than Terrell Davis. The NFL MVP, Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos retired over a decade before most of us even knew what CBD was, and Davis says he was never a cannabis guy. But he and the plant have come full circle in Denver.
Denver is home to several of Davis's family members as well as DEFY, his CBD company that specializes in sports performance drinks (over 8,600 of which he donated to Food Bank of the Rockies in March). Launching off TD's celebrity, DEFY has since landed several sponsorships in professional sports, and Davis has even higher hopes going forward that don't stop at NFL sidelines.
Westword: How much has Denver changed since your playing days here? What's different when you come back?
Terrell Davis: There's just building everywhere. You go to the downtown area and you see cranes everywhere. The traffic has gotten stupid, and there are tons more people. Downtown used to be a 25-minute drive, I don't care what time of day. Now you're looking at an hour in traffic on I-25. It's crazy, man. My mom still lives there, and I have a lot of family that still stays in Denver, so I visit quite a bit.
Was there any indication it would become this cannabis capital when you played here? I doubt the term "CBD" meant anything back then.
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I had no clue. Cannabis was not my deal. I was not in that world, but I clearly understand now. In retrospect, when I think about players who used cannabis while they were playing, I just couldn't figure out why. What's the big deal about it? You can't get off [cannabis] to not fail a drug test? Those guys seemed like idiots — but what I didn't see was what they were fighting, whether it was pain, stress, inflammation or whatever it was. Now I understand that.
The CBD industry seems to open that window for a lot of athletes. When did you start using it, and how did that lead you to DEFY?
It was a little over two years ago, when I had really started looking into CBD. It was at the advice and encouragement of our CEO at the time and a friend of mine, Beau Wehrle. He was looking at different spaces to invest, and he brought it to my attention that maybe we should start looking into it. I was like, "Man, I am not messing with CBD," because I didn't know anything about it. I associated it with marijuana.
But he knew I was suffering from pain, inflammation and all that, and he had done his homework. So he shared some information with me that had me thinking differently, and I got to a point that made me comfortable enough to try it. So I tried it, and in about three to four weeks, I noticed my bounce-back was better after working out. My knee swelling started to lessen, and I was able to go to back-to-back workouts. At that point, the lightbulb kind of went off, and I thought it was an opportunity to share it with current players. But I didn't feel comfortable enough to tell them a brand to try, so we did the research, put the time and effort into it, and started DEFY.
Is there a difference in what CBD does for younger athletes as compared to older athletes? Can it be more preventive than treatment for some?
The game of any sport is to exhaust your body to the point where it breaks down. But the most important parts are how you recover and playing pain-free. That was always important to me: How do I get all of this pain, but mostly inflammation, out of my body? Not just professionals, but any athlete wants to do that.
I remember looking at my life and thinking I was always going to feel that way, but [CBD] and DEFY have changed my outlook on that. I'm 200 pounds, and I haven't been like that since high school. It helped as a preventive of migraines, as well, and I wasn't even prepared for that. I was on an anti-inflammatory medication, Naprosyn, in college. I got off that a couple years ago, a few months after trying CBD, and I've had one migraine since. It's only preventive, but I haven't used it to abort a migraine yet.
So is this a supplement to other medication, CBD or otherwise, or do you think this sports drink is good enough to help those with pain on its own?
Our drink has a delivery system that allows your body to absorb it. My understanding is that it's like a pharmaceutical-grade delivery system that allows your body to absorb ten times more than a standard delivery system, and it gets in there faster. When I drink it, I feel the effects immediately, but with CBD, everyone is different. We have different dosages, and we recommend that everyone start with a low dosage. I'm now at around 50 milligrams a day
Where do you see sports drinks going in five, ten years? Think we'll be seeing something like this on pro sidelines or benches?
Yeah — that's the dream! When we built this brand, that was the vision from day one. We envisioned this drink to not just be in gyms and clubs, but to be in professional sports locker rooms, and to have current players wearing and drinking DEFY in the commercials.
Last year, we were the first season-long CBD sponsor of the IndyCar Series, and we had to go through a very strict body of approvals. We also ended up having [U.S. tennis professional] John Isner. We've been continuing down that path to where we can set up ourselves with major-league pro sports.
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How about the Denver Broncos?
Heck, yeah. We're always looking. Maybe I'm being a little too ambitious, but I would really like the naming rights to the Denver [football] stadium.
People are stressed out because we can't go to the gym or even play basketball in Denver. What are you doing to stay active during all of this?
For us, any time you have something like this, it's important to look at the things you can do so you're ready when things are back on track. We're doing all the things behind the scene. Our zero-sugar DEFY, the new drink, is coming out soon. For us, since we're all online, not a lot changes, but we're still trying to talk to new distributors and retail outlets.