NFLer Dontari Poe grew up in the inner city. Rather than attend any specialized schools, he completed his education through public schools. He even once got a loan from his agent to purchase a vehicle for his mother. But don’t let his circumstances or his last name fool you – Dontari Poe has always been rich.
Dontari Poe is rich because he is: Really Internally Contently Happy (RICH), a way of life that lasts far beyond any ephemeral happiness a paycheck can provide. Poe’s Christian religion keeps him happy. Moreover, much of his happiness is attributed to his great attitude, supportive loving family, hard work ethic, willingness to give, and humbleness, qualities that have kept him in the NFL, and yet, happen to be the same qualities that got him to the pros, traits that were instilled in him since his days of youth.
Dontari Poe was the youngest of three boys born to Robert Poe Sr. and Sandra Poe in Memphis, Tennessee on August 18, 1990. Eventually Sandra and Robert Sr. split and Sandra raised her three sons. Sandra always envisioned a better future for her family while simultaneously, working split shifts for minimum wage just to be home with her sons when they arrived home from school. As she concentrated on lifting their spirits about anything school related that got them down, taught them values, and reiterated the appropriate areas with which to never lose sight, her home was a safe place to be, a refuge where once they arrived, the support of a loving family created a serene aura that fostered a RICH group of individuals. “I wanted my children to know that our home was a haven, a place where once they got home, everything would be okay,” said Sandra. Sandra also fostered her family being RICH outside of the home, regardless of circumstances. She was the epitome of hard work, perseverance, and optimism, an overall high standard example where which Poe adheres. “I get my toughness from my mom. Whenever there were times where I’ve wanted to quit, I thought, ‘Man, she never quit on you. What would it look like if you quit on her right now?’ That’s why I’ve always said that no matter how difficult it gets, somehow, someway, you fight through it, and with the correct attitude. That’s coming from her because she always had gotten it done,” said Poe. Sandra also got busy by exploring her sons’ interests and skills, encouraging them to be grateful for the rich options around them where which they could use their rich talents to join some club or activity in their pastime. For Poe, at first, this was music. Before Poe’s freshman year of high school at Memphis based Wooddale High School, the football coach discovered Poe practicing with the school marching band. As he looked at Poe’s size, and with x-ray vision, saw the type of rich contributions Poe could potentially provide on the gridiron, rather than hitting a drum, he felt that Poe should be hitting someone in football pads. Hence, the coach’s recruitment efforts coupled with Poe’s willingness to explore football yielded Poe playing organized football at Wooddale High School, a sport Poe had never played prior to high school. By Poe’s junior year, his football talents were richly developed as he was an all-state honorable mention defensive lineman who was credited with 63 tackles and 8 sacks. In addition to football, Poe was also a talented shot putter, and as a junior, he earned the Class 3-A title at the state meet with a throw of 56 feet, 3.25 inches. Poe also defended his title as a senior with a throw of 54 feet, 1.25 inches, and also won the discus throw in the state meet with a personal best throw of 156 feet,
1 inch. Poe claimed city, district, and region track titles as a senior. Undeniably, as Poe’s adroit arm developed as a shot putter and discus thrower, it only complemented his football playing. In spite of Poe’s rich football skills in high school, both Rivals.com and Scout.com regarded him only as a two-star prospect. Scout.com ranked him No. 92 in a crop of defensive tackles, and Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 19 overall prospect out of Tennessee. In spite of the rankings, Poe was still RICH because he knew that if given a fair chance, he had the talent to go far in football, that rankings don’t necessarily determine one’s rank in life, and considering he had no prior football experience before high school, he played well at Wooddale High School. “These rankings only motivated me because I know I was a better football player than a lot of people ahead of me who were from my home state, let alone people in the country, and I know how I work. I push through everything, so I was ready for that,” said Poe. The all-state honorable mention defensive lineman did receive opportunities to play football at the collegiate level as opportunities came knocking from his hometown school which was the University of Memphis, from Auburn University, the University of Colorado, and from the University of Mississippi. Poe chose to stay in his hometown and attend the University of Memphis. As a redshirt freshman, Poe made six starts at nose tackle while playing in 11 of 12 games for the Tigers, missing only one game due to a death in his family. He led the team in tackles for losses (TFLs) with 7, tied for third on the team in sacks with 2, and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles with 3. He finished his freshman year with 27 tackles, including 18 solo stops. Poe’s rich performance earned him a Conference USA All-Freshman Team selection. As a sophomore, Poe became a consistent starter on the defensive line. He was one of six Tigers to start all 12 games in 2010 and ended the year ranked fifth on the team with 41 tackles, and forth in TFLs with 6.5. His TFLs generated a total loss of 27 yards. For the season, Poe earned an All-Conference-USA honorable mention. Poe was even presented one of the Leadership Awards by the coaching staff at the 2011 Blue-Gray Game and was voted by the media as the Defensive MVP at this event. Prior to Poe’s junior season, he was richly valued for his weight room performance and hence, was named one of the “10 strongest men in college football” by ESPN’s Bruce Feldman. As a junior, Poe started all 12 games on the defensive line and recorded at least one tackle in each game, tallying 33 total tackles, 18 of which were solo stops. He also ranked third on the team with 8 TFLs, for a loss of 26 yards. At the end of the 2011 football season, Poe was named an MVP as well as the Defensive Player of the Year at the team’s post-season banquet. He was also selected second-team All-Conference USA and was listed as an honorable mention All-America pick by Pro Football Weekly. Within his first three years of college, Poe earned three letters as a member of the Tigers’ defensive line, played in 35 contests with 30 starts, recorded 101 tackles where 57 were unassisted, earned 21.5 TFLs, 5 sacks, 4 pass break-ups, and 4 forced fumbles. Poe was RICH because he was content with his accomplishments thus far and had faith that God had a good plan for his life, whatever the plan would be. Poe was in a good place because he had rich options concerning what his next move would be. He could continue developing his rich skills with the Tigers as a college senior, or he could forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL Draft; Poe chose the latter rich option and made this announcement official on December 23, 2011. Soon enough, Poe also announced that he signed with agent Jimmy Sexton of Creative Artists Agency. Poe was satisfied with his college football career and was definitely ready to take his rich talents to the next level. “I was ready to move on. I love the city of Memphis. I love the college. But I just felt like it was my time to move out of Memphis to start doing bigger things,” said Poe. The next big thing in which Poe would have to progress in before he reached that next NFL level was the NFL Scouting Combine. Poe entered the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine as a potential second rounder. But Poe’s rich raw athletic skills turned heads, got positive grapevine talk going, and sky rocketed his potential NFL value. When Poe got on the field, he impressed as if his life depended on it. Poe was shockingly nimble for a 346 pounder as he displayed an epic performance of posting 4.98 seconds in the 40-yard dash, bench-pressed 225 pounds, an astonishing 44 repetitions, a number topped only by 5 men in the history of the scouting extravaganza, and he had a vertical jump of 29.5 inches. Poe was the first defensive lineman off the board, selected in the 2012 NFL Draft in the first round, eleventh overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. Poe was the highest drafted player from Memphis since 1978 and the highest drafted player from Conference USA ever. At 22 years of age, Poe was happy to go pro. “Getting drafted to the NFL was crazy – it was a lifelong dream. You have to understand that a lot of people don’t even get to live out their dreams at all, so for me to be in a position at the age that I was, with my family and friends, it was really fun,” said Poe.
On the eve of training camp, July 26, 2012, Poe signed a four-year deal worth around $11 million, with a fifth-year team option. After another teammate injured his ankle, Poe was moved into the starting lineup for his entire rookie season. He played and started all 16 regular season games at nose tackle and was a three-down player for most of the season. Poe finished the 2012 NFL season with 38 tackles, including 28 unassisted. According to the Sporting News, as a rookie, Poe appeared to be advanced in grasping the Chiefs’ two-gap system. The Kansas City Star named Poe the Chiefs’ Rookie of the Year. Twelve games into Poe’s second season, he lined up on 804 defensive snaps – 85 more than any other defensive tackle in the NFL. During the 2013 NFL season, Poe played and started 15 regular season games and recorded 51 tackles, including 43 unassisted. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Poe was selected to participate in the annual Pro Bowl. During the 2014 NFL season, Poe played and started all 16 regular season games and recorded 45 tackles, including 37 unassisted, and had 6 sacks. At the conclusion of the 2014 season, he was again selected to play in the Pro Bowl. During the 2015 NFL season, Poe played in 15 regular season games and started 13, earning 39 tackles, including 29 unassisted, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. During the 2016 season, Poe played and started all 16 regular season games and recorded 27 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1.5 sacks, and 3 passes defended. On March 16, 2017, Poe signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. He made a bonus of $125,000 after passing his July 26th weigh-in. During the 2017 NFL season, Poe played and started all 16 regular season games and recorded 39 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2 passes. On March 15, 2018, Poe signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Carolina Panthers. During the 2018 NFL season, Poe’s first season with the Panthers, Poe played and started all 16 games and recorded 17 tackles and 1.0 sacks. Poe is grateful to be playing for the Panthers and plans to continue playing up to par. He is happy to be a part of the NFL period, and regardless of what team he may play for, he has a couple of goals he’d like to accomplish. “I’d like to win a Super Bowl game; that’s the biggest goal I’d like to accomplish as a NFL player period. Equally important is for me to be the best that I can be and to earn any accolades that can help me accomplish this,” said Poe.
Poe is happy to be a NFL player, not only to live the life that God planned for him, but also to be in a position to accomplish perhaps some even more important goals off the field, namely giving back. Poe is RICH because he’s been that happy struggling child whom others have helped, whether he received a kind word, great advice, or even a genuine friend, all things that funds can’t necessarily buy. Poe is RICH because he genuinely desires to give, executing acts of kindness that foster one feeling a true purpose in life. “For me to accomplish what I have, and go back to lend a helping hand – anything I can do to help people is really big for me,” said Poe. His Poe Man’s Dream Foundation was established in 2016. “Ever since I got to the NFL, I’ve wanted to help out children, children coming from the same place I came from – I’ve always wanted to do that. At the end of the 2015 NFL season, my team and I started talking about having a foundation, and it came to fruition during the summer of 2016,” said Poe. Poe Man’s Dream Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps under-served middle-school and high-school children, started off with an annual free football camp for local children at Poe’s alma mater, Wooddale High School. Poe wanted the first event to be in his neighborhood, in the city where he is from. “Home is where the heart is. I know what these people are going through. I know how everyday life is because I was just here. I went to and graduated from Wooddale High School in 2008, so I know what it’s all about,” said Poe. Poe Man’s Dream Foundation has since grown to service children in both Memphis, Tennessee and in Kansas City, Missouri where participants are given support with tech events and can participate in a 3-month program called Dream Big, Build Strong. “The Dream Big, Build Strong program teaches the children about healthy living and eating, and provides additional educational support,” said Poe. Having grown up in the inner city, Poe has a good grasp of what will benefit these children, but always appreciates input from his team when developing ongoing programs to help them. “I grew up the inner-city, so I have an understanding of what the children need. I speak with our board and team on a regular basis to figure out what sort of programs make the most sense for these children,” said Poe. It makes sense that Poe always wants to provide these local children the best, desiring to orchestrate an ongoing backpack drive for them, donate turkeys to families on Thanksgiving, and even work his way to providing more intricate events. “The events we’ve provided thus far is just a starting point. The more people I can touch around here, the more it’ll spread, and the bigger it’ll get,” said Poe about his foundation activities and programs. To learn more about Poe and his foundation events, donate, or get involved, visit: www.poemansdream.com.
Poe, the richly talented RICH big tall 6’3″, 346 pound man with the even bigger heart, like his mother, continues the trend in setting the standard for hard work, perseverance, and optimism for the next generation. So it’s good that Poe continues to walk to the beat of his own drum. Maybe his time spent with the marching band came in handy after all.