Catching Up With Davis Winkie

Former Vanderbilt football standout Davis Winkie updates life and career

by Andrew Maraniss

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Part of an ongoing series, catches up with former Vanderbilt football student-athlete Davis Winkie.

Winkie was a long snapper for the Commodores and twice made the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Winkie recently took some time for a Q&A to update his life and career: What is your occupation these days?

Winkie: “My civilian career is as an Atlanta-based historian (though I’m trying to switch careers at perhaps the worst moment in history), but I am also a Second Lieutenant in the North Carolina Army National Guard. I’ve been in the Guard for about two and a half years now.”

How has COVID-19 affected you and your family?

“In early March, my jobs at Georgia Humanities and the Atlanta History Center shifted to remote work, but April 2, the North Carolina National Guard ordered me to State Active Duty for COVID-19 response. Then on April 18, I was mobilized under Title 32 orders for continuing COVID-19 response in North Carolina.

“Since my activation, I’ve been working with the Task Force Engineer as an administrative officer focusing on personnel, logistics forecasting and mission tracking. TF Engineer’s current mission is to develop plans to rapidly increase the state’s hospital capacity should the system show signs of strain. We’re also assisting food banks around the state to plan expansions that will help them meet increased demand.”

What has been the hardest adjustment?

“The hardest thing was to say goodbye to my son, Dean. He’s 20-months old and has become quite the tiny terrorist. The terrible twos are coming early! I don’t know how long this mission will last – and I’ll likely have to self-isolate once I return home – but I’m proud to do my part to help others during the pandemic.”

What has been the most pleasant surprise in these circumstances?

“I have been pleasantly surprised by how many people around the country have embraced social distancing guidelines and are taking their role seriously. Overcoming public health crises requires concerted action from all Americans and it’s amazing how we see so many people willingly modify their routines in order to protect their neighbors from the virus – even before stay-at-home orders cascaded across the country. Shutdowns are about solidarity: collectively closing ranks to protect our most vulnerable.”

Any good books, movies or games to recommend?

“I’m a fan of dark literature for dark times. Try The Road by Cormac McCarthy (book before movie), The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (again, book before movie) and World War Z by Max Brooks. The latter book is a fictional oral history that immerses readers in a zombie pandemic, making for an eerie read in this particular moment.

World War Z also has a fantastic audiobook that features a full-ensemble cast. You won’t be disappointed.”

What was your all-time favorite moment as a Commodore?

“My favorite moment was our 17-16 win at Georgia in 2016. Watching Zach Cunningham take over that game – he had 19 tackles – was mesmerizing.

What do you miss most in the sports world right now?

“I’ve become a huge soccer fan in recent years and I’m missing Atlanta United matches really badly right now. My last in-person sporting event was their season opener at Nashville SC back in February.”

Any advice or words of wisdom to Commodore Nation to help us get through this?

“Take this virus seriously. Please, for the love of God, take it seriously. Stay home if you can. America’s COVID-19 toll has already eclipsed the number of American deaths in Vietnam, 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.”

Anything else you’d like to say about your time at Vanderbilt or what you’ve been up to since you left?

“My education prepared me to wrestle with big ideas and balancing big course loads with football helped me gain important skills for managing my time and productively coping with stress so that I can continue to help others today for as long as possible. VUMC is doing a fantastic job on experimental research and I have faith that Vandy will play a huge role in keeping Nashville as healthy as possible.”