Trimaine Davis had stepped out into a competitive arena many times before, but not like the one he set foot on Sunday in Tampa Bay.
"One is on a very micro level, and one is on a mega universe level," Davis said on Monday.
Davis took the field at Raymond James Stadium for the Super Bowl 55 pregame ceremony. He was one of three honorary captains recognized before the game for their contributions to their respective communities.
Poet Amanda Gorman, who became a household name following her appearance at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, put words to their efforts.
"I think that's one of the things I was most in awe about," Davis said.
The experience made it pretty difficult to focus on the biggest game in sports.
"I was just like stuck in the moment of thinking about everything that I've gone through to get to this point."
San Diego State University was a big part of that.
Davis was raised by his grandmother. His parents both battled addiction. A brain aneurism took his mother's life when he was 14. Less than two years later his father died of AIDS.
When Davis neared graduation, a future at a four-year university was not a given.
"I needed all the help I could get."
That help came in the form of Steve Fisher and the Aztec coaching staff, who saw something in Davis beyond his 6-foot-7-inch frame and raw athleticism.
"People who believed in me as a person who advocated for me as well for me to get into San Diego State," Davis explained. "Without them, without the coaching staff at San Diego State... this never would have happened."
Davis played for the Aztecs from 2002 to 2006, and in the process earned a degree in African American studies from SDSU, before getting his masters at Cal State University Northridge. He went on to spend his entire adult life in higher education.
"I wake up every day with a mission to make sure students know that we care about them."
Now he works for UCLA's VIP Scholars program, which helps prepare underserved high school students for college, and sees them through all levels of their education. Over the last year that work has intersected with his contributions to the NFL Players Coalition. In both, he helps supply students with the technological resources and insight necessary to excel during the pandemic.
"I know the opportunities that I was afforded, and I know that I didn't get here by myself," Davis said. "So now that I'm in this position I have to pay it forward."
That mindsight stems from his time at SDSU, and is part of what he has carried with him into his career.
"I use my degree every single day. I use the lessons I learned about being a student-athlete and what it entailed to break things down, I use those every day."
With Sunday's honor behind him, the work continues. It is now fueled in part by a celebration seen and a message heard by millions - serving as a charge to press on in his efforts to help others.
"It just gives me that much more motivation to make sure I live up to this," Davis said. "I don't want to let her down. I don't want her words to die down. So I have something to live up to, and I'm going to do my best to accept that challenge."