Former star University of Hawaii receiver Davone Bess was struck was a wide range of emotions upon his return to campus.
Bess, who had a successful six-year NFL career following his three standout seasons for Hawaii, returned to his old stomping grounds for the first time in approximately 13 years earlier this week. Bess was able to take his children around the UH-Manoa campus and reflect on how far he’s come since then.
[Latest stories from Hawaii’s Sports Station — KHON2 Sports]
In his three seasons at UH, Bess caught 293 passes for 41 touchdowns and 3,610 yards. The vast majority of his passes caught came from Colt Brennan, the college football legend who died on May 11. Brennan’s death continues to strike Bess hard, as the two were close friends.
“Life is about ebbs and flows and just the emotional roller coaster it puts on you because I wanna say the last two or three years, I’ve really been in a really, really good space mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and I worked to get there. It didn’t just happen overnight, it was a process. But the passion of Colt is just an example of life throws things at you out of nowhere,” Bess told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “It was devastating. I literally couldn’t stop crying for two days straight. I would watch my kids outside playing and I’d just break down. It just makes me want to go that much harder. I wish I could’ve done a little bit more to help my brother and help him get on the other side because many people don’t make it to the other side.
“I will always have him in memory when it comes to the mental health awareness and just talking about the struggles and trying to bounce back and just trying to make a difference in the community, the children.”
Following his junior season at Hawaii, Bess decided to bypass his senior year and declared for the 2008 NFL Draft. Despite not getting selected, he was able to latch on with the Miami Dolphins and made the active roster as a rookie.
Bess solidified a role as a slot receiver in Miami, catching 54 passes in 2008, which was good for third among all rookies. He ended up catching 363 passes for 3,809 yards and 14 touchdowns during his career, which was cut short by multiple arrests.
“I think for me, I had a hard time really processing it. It took me five or six years just trying to understand and grasp what just happened,” Bess said. “My life was taking off, I was soaring at an all-time high, this kid from Oakland, California. Just to be shaken up the way everything went down, it was devastating but at the time, I didn’t understand but reflecting and looking back, God had a plan for me and it was bigger than being in the NFL. It was bigger than scoring touchdowns on Sundays. I didn’t see it but I’m so grateful for the experience. I have people asking me all the time, ‘What would you do differently now that you didn’t know back then?’ I wouldn’t change nothing, because all those down times molded me into the person I am today and I’m very, very grateful for them.”
Bess is being proactive in hoping to use his past experiences to help others. He has two foundations in the Bess Route Foundation and the Bess Route Academy. BRF focuses on those who have suffered trauma from mental health issues just as Bess himself has, while BRA’s Instagram account states that it aims to help others take the “best routes on the field and take the best routes in life.”
“It lights me up inside. It’s so joyful. It’s a breath of fresh air. I’m just forever grateful to not only the state of Hawaii, but the people of Hawaii. The culture, the community, the people. It’s been a journey. The people welcoming me with open arms, the community embracing me with all my flaws and baggage coming in,” Bess said. “I’m just grateful and to be able to come to a place, not only to show my children where it all started, for them to be where they’re at today it’s just a great feeling and my children are part Hawaiian as well. It just makes everything so much better. I’m just so thankful, very humbled, very appreciative and very blessed.”
A Colt Brennan tribute shirt by HiLife and Barefoot League is available for purchase online, with proceeds benefitting Brennan’s family. The shirt can be bought here.