In the NFL, 30 is considered a late start to playing your best football. Defensive ends tend to peak earlier than linebackers and running backs. But for Davis, it seems that as he’s gotten older and more comfortable in his own skin on top of a better understanding of how the game is played, he’s found a new gear.
Demario Davis is a New Orleans Saints linebacker who is now in his 30s. His career has been up and down, but he’s playing the best football of his life this season.
METAIRIE, LA. (WAFB) – Five years ago, Demario Davis thought he was ready to “shut it down.”
The All-Pro linebacker for the New Orleans Saints stated he was psychologically and physically drained five seasons into his career with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, defying logic by playing his greatest football beyond the age of 30.
Davis, on the other hand, felt troubled because “God wasn’t done with me,” as he put it.
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Davis has enjoyed his five best seasons since then, first after being traded from the Browns to the Jets in 2017, and then after signing as a free agent with the Saints in 2018.
With 555 tackles in that time, the 32-year-old is tied for fourth in the NFL, and his 21 sacks are the most of any off-the-ball linebacker. For the first time in 2019, he was chosen first-team All-Pro, then second-team in 2020. Since his arrival, the Saints have possessed the NFL’s best run defense.
Davis has also emerged as New Orleans’ heart and soul, taking up the duty of directing pregame speeches from Drew Brees. In 2020, he was named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his contributions both on and off the field.
Demario and Tamela have given back to the community via the Devoted Dreamers Foundation, which they founded only one year into his career to empower youngsters with education and services. Davis has also teamed up with longtime buddy Josh Norman to give water and supplies to migrant families held on the southern border in Flint, Michigan.
Davis has been a leader in the NFL Players Coalition, which works to promote social justice and racial equality, and his views had a huge influence when a group of players and owners convened in 2017 to talk about the national anthem kneeling scandal.
For his work to promote criminal justice reform in New York, he earned the Bronx Defenders’ “In Pursuit of Justice” award. He and former Saints teammate Benjamin Watson were pioneers in the push to modify Louisiana’s felony conviction statute, which required a unanimous jury.
When Davis was penalized for wearing a “Man of God” headband during pregame warmups, he converted it into a good cause. The sanction was eventually reversed by the NFL, but Davis took advantage of the publicity to organize a charity benefit for a hospital in his home state of Mississippi.
He even returned to Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business to get an MBA. Oh, and he’s a loving father of five children.
“Of course, I’m prejudiced,” Tamela said, “but I’ve never encountered someone who is as motivated, committed, and enthusiastic about anything he sets his mind to.” “If you ask him to prepare a batch of pancakes, he’ll do it with his whole heart and soul.” “His ‘world renowned pancakes,’ he says.”
Davis was characterized in the same manner by both Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and linebackers coach Michael Hodges.
“He’s all-in with everything he does,” Hodges said, adding that their connection is a two-way street, with Davis impacting him as a parent and a person.
Not enraged by the Jets
The Jets will run into what seems to be one of their greatest blunders when Davis returns to MetLife Stadium for the first time since they made little attempt to keep him last year (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
Only Davis’ late-career revival is more stunning than the Jets’ decision not to keep building around him after he opened the season with 135 tackles and five sacks in 2017. Of course, that administration, headed by general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, loved Davis, but they valued him significantly lower than the Saints’ three-year, $24 million agreement.
“It’s never easy to let go of talented football players. “It’s incredibly difficult to get go of terrific football players and good people,” said Bowles, who now sees Davis twice a year as the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and calls him “one of my favorite players in the game.”
“He was always a leader who brought everyone together.” He always gave it his all. And he’s one of the most genuine individuals you’ll probably ever meet, from a leadership aspect, to assisting a teammate off the field, to being a family man, to just being a God-fearing man,” Bowles added. “Aside from that, he’s a fantastic football player….” There isn’t anything he can’t accomplish. He takes great delight in it, and you can still see it in his play.”
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“Take a look at this individual in prison, this youngster who was expelled from school, and this kid who was reared by a single mother. Take a look at this boy, who, according to the statistics, would have had his life squandered. “And look at what he’s done,” Davis said. “It’s fantastic if [my football achievements] catch your attention. But, when you look at me, what do you see?
“And ideally it’s a light or anything that makes you ask, ‘What is that?’”
Davis’ metamorphosis was seen positively by the Jets. Although Davis originally caught Ryan and linebackers coach Bob Sutton’s attention because of what they saw on film and at the scouting combine, he only rose in their estimation when he came to visit.
“He’s a sociable, glass-is-half-full, problem-solving type,” ESPN commentator Mike Tannenbaum, who was the Jets’ general manager at the time of his drafting, said. “In the world, there are two sorts of individuals. Some people offer energy when they enter a room, while others drain it. He has the ability to multiply the effects of others. He’s the kind of person you want to cheer for. I’m overjoyed for his achievement.”
When the Saints signed the 6-foot-2, 248-pounder, they didn’t anticipate him to be nearly this good of a player and leader.
Brees stated, “I got an opportunity to witness firsthand how he trains and studies video and works, the way he addresses just about every single minute detail.” “And what you see on Sunday with him making every play and reading that run or getting past that blocker, getting in the backfield or predicting that run or defeating someone with a pass-rush move, I witnessed him do it in practice.” It isn’t something that happens by chance.”
Saints coach Sean Payton, Allen, Hodges, and Brees all spoke of a tough work ethic, film study, physical upkeep, and determination that is downright Brees-like.
“When I see him, I see a young kid, and that’s a testament to him,” Payton said. “First and foremost, he is incredibly conscientious in his preparation and self-care.
“And, No. 2, his passion for excellence and to be a part of a great defense is infectious.”
Jenna Laine of ESPN contributed to this report.
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