Retired Super Bowl Champion, Dedicated Humanitarian,
Chaplin, and Victim Advocate
Life lessons from coaches contributed to his successful NFL career – but the needs of youth and anyone who could use support became his driving motivation in later years
Dave Stalls is not a man lacking in talents. Along with winning two Super Bowls and playing in a thirdduring a seven-year career as a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the L.A. Raiders, he studied zoology, veterinary medicine, and marine biology, and then later worked in executive sales and investment banking.
It wasn’t until he was in his late thirties that Dave identified his true calling of working with at-risk young people. In 2012 Dave founded his second nonprofit, called the Street Fraternity (www.streetfraternity.org), which is focused on young men ages 14-25, who live in violent neighborhoods, in urban Aurora/Denver, Colorado.
Dave himself knew his share of loneliness, confusion, and insecurity as a young man, though he never lacked for material wants. Raised by a single mother amidst the country club society of Madison, Wisconsin, Dave never met his father. He found male bonding opportunities, both with adults and other kids, through ice hockey, and later football. His talent for the latter sport won him a college scholarship to Northern Colorado University in Greeley, Colorado, where in addition to football, he pursued a passion for the study of animal science.
As honored as Dave was to learn that he would be one of the first UNC players ever to be drafted and have a shot at the NFL, he vacillated over whether to accept the offer or whether to keep his focus on finishing his degree and going on to graduate school in marine biology. In the end, Dave decided to attend the Dallas Cowboys training camp, in part because the signing bonus would help him pay for graduate school, and made the team for what turned out to be an amazing season. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1977 and played in it again in 1978, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
During his fourth training camp with Dallas, Dave was traded to Tampa, then released after three and a half seasons to be picked up by the L.A. Raiders. He won his second and last Super Bowl in 1984 with the Raiders, and in doing so became acquainted with a lifelong mentor. “Al Davis, a Hall of Fame coach, player, and owner, had a tremendous impact on me,” he said. “His philosophy still affects me to this day. He believed in learning what the players were thinking, experiencing, and feeling, and considering that feedback in his own decision-making. That made his players feel respected as men and as professionals.”
In the years after his career with the NFL ended, Dave became a father of two children, now grown; pursued marine biology and veterinary science for a time; and then entered the business world to become a leader in sales and executive management. But as the years passed, he found himself increasingly attracted to opportunities to interact with at-risk youth.
He eventually teamed up with gang leaders, break dancers, graffiti artists, and gay and lesbian youth to create an award winning urban nighttime youth center called The Spot (archived website: www.thespotdenver.org). After nine years of successful growth and operation, this magical place was eventually merged with another nonprofit, and Dave went on to become the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado (www.biglittlecolorado.org).
In the fall of 2011, Dave attended the funeral of his former Tampa teammate Lee Roy Selmon. Lee Roy’s untimely death, along with the past deaths of defensive line teammate Dave Logan and defensive line coach Abe Gibron, caused Dave once again to take stock of his own life choices, and to face the fact that although he was helping a great many young people through his outreach efforts, he could be doing more.
This new bout of soul-searching led him to create the Street Fraternity (www.streetfraternity.org), a site-based program which is focused on young men ages 14-25, who live in violent neighborhoods, in urban Aurora/Denver, Colorado.
He sees a certain similarity between the sanctioned violence practiced by football players and the unsanctioned violence that some of the young men he mentors have executed on the streets.
“Very simply, violence is a genuine part of these young men’s lives, whether we like it or not.” he said. “How do we help them understand and practice their warrior spirit, and balance the aggression with excellence, purpose, and respect?”
Ultimately, Dave said, this line of work is far more satisfying than winning Super Bowls; the rewards far richer than the large houses and Cadillacs he owned in his earlier days. “Working with these young people has taught me how I can truly create some significance with my time on this planet,” he reflected.
In the fall of 2012 Dave and his son walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in France and Spain. He said, “There’s so much to say about the positive impact of this “spiritual walk.” Most importantly was the simple concept and benefits of slowing down.”
This spiritual walk inspired Dave to slow down. He realized that the city became too fast, expensive, crowded, impersonal and overwhelming.
He sought a place where he might practice a slower and more contemplative way to live. He said, I found that place, and its people, at the Shambhala Mountain Center in northern, Colorado. I took programs in meditation and other contemplative strategies, and I eventually volunteered and lived at the retreat center. While I am not a Buddhist, I deeply admire many of their basic teachings, such as “we are all born basically good” and “everything is impermanent.”
Dave is a devoted humanitarian. He is passionate and very dedicated to serve those in need. Since retiring from the Street Fraternity in 2013, he has continued to volunteer there. He has also volunteered as a direct care giver for Hospice and for a Veterans’ hospital emergency room.
In addition, Dave trained at the University of Colorado Hospital to become a spiritually independent chaplain, and he continued this volunteer work with Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center. He then became a Victim Advocate with the Alamosa County Sheriff's department.
In December of 2020 Dave moved back to the Shambhala Mountain Center to help with recovery from a devasting wildfire, and the challenges of Covid. He has become a Victim Response Team member with the Larimer County Sheriff's office.
Dave said, “My most important success in life has been being an active and supportive father in the lives of my two children who are now thriving adults. And now I am an active grandpa to two grandsons.”
Whether it was making decisions about his future when he was still a college player or creating a place with Denver’s gang leaders or helping those in need, Dave Stalls’ deep-rooted sense of integrity and commitment to outreach and risk-taking display the exemplary values of an Insightful Player® team member.
A few of Dave Stalls’ Guiding Principles:
1. Don’t let your “wish to be liked” guide your decision-making. True leaders – as well as the individuals or groups they lead -- are often best served by their least popular decisions.
2. Ask for and listen to advice and input from people of all ranks and all walks of life. This not only demonstrates true respect, but also leads to the most effective outcomes.
3. Understand the importance of quiet contemplation in an often-noisy world. If someone you know has introverted tendencies, proactively reach out to them. If you are introverted, honor your thoughtful and quieter self.
4. Do not allow yourself to be defined by possessions or social status. Give plenty of thought to what matters most to you and be willing to pursue it regardless of whether it conveys status or popularity.
5. It’s a balance. Be comfortable and patient with your own limitations. At the same time, circumstances will never be perfect, so be willing to step off the curb and into the mix.
6. Former pro athletes can contribute so much to the world of nonprofit business. Take the time to consider and learn from nonprofits. It’s a career path that offers significant professional achievement and significant societal impact.
7. One of the most important questions I would hope we can increasingly practice asking ourselves is...What is enough? Must we always seek more, or can we learn to find peace, gratitude, and contentment with what we have achieved? Even if it's just for the moment.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified and Board Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. Insightful Player® was created to support youth to become caring leaders now. This will put them on the path to take humanity to heights that we can't imagine. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call her landline 603-897-0610.
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