Sports Spectrum Weekly

Saints LB Demario Davis named 2021 Bart Starr Award winner for character, leadership

One of the premiere events on the sports calendar that intersects faith and sports each year is the Super Bowl Breakfast, hosted by the sports ministry Athletes in Action, on the day before the Super Bowl. The pinnacle of the event is the presentation of the Bart Starr Award, named after the famed Green Bay Packers quarterback and given annually to a player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.

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New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis on Monday was named the 2021 recipient, and will be presented the award at an event featuring a slew of sports luminaries. Davis is also a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, an award that recognizes excellence on and off the field.

“Each year we have watched the players identify those who are living up to the expectations set by this award’s namesake,” said Terry Bortz, director of the Super Bowl Breakfast. “Davis has distinguished himself as a quality person and a leader in the community, and we are thrilled to recognize him and his outstanding efforts.”

Davis, who is in his ninth season in the NFL, was chosen by his peers out of a group of 10 nominees for the honor. The Bart Starr Award is the only award other than the Pro Bowl voted on by all the players. Davis, surprisingly, has yet to be selected for the Pro Bowl, though he was a first-team All-Pro selection last season. This year, Davis led his team in tackles (119) for the third straight season, and is looking to help the Saints (No. 2 in the NFC) make a deep run in the playoffs.

Davis also made headlines during the 2019 season when he was fined $7,000 by the NFL for wearing a headband that read “Man of God” during a game. The fine was later dropped, but it put Davis and his faith in the spotlight. Davis opened up fully about his faith in his book, “The Unsuccessful Champion: Finding True Victory in the Midst of Adversity.”

In the book, he discussed his upbringing, being raised by a 16-year-old mother and getting caught up in a life of drugs and alcohol before finding faith in God.

“I came from nothing,” Davis wrote. “Not that I’m ashamed of this. In fact, I’m proud of it. I love my story because it’s just that — mine. As messy as it may be, I know God has redeemed every event in my life to piece together the puzzle that makes up Demario Davis.”

Benjamin Watson, who played tight end for the Saints, wrote the foreword for the book. He’ll be one of many big names from the sports world on hand for the Super Bowl Breakfast, which will take on an online format this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Along with the award presentation, the breakfast will also feature a conversation on race and justice with Watson, former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich, and television commentator James Brown.

Bortz has, in the past, described the breakfast as an awards ceremony with an inspirational message. Organizers hope those in attendance will leave with an understanding of who God is and what the Gospel is all about.

“If we can put on an event at the Super Bowl — and we do them at the Final Four and NBA All-Star Weekend as well — and have some of the top names in the NFL come, we’ll attract people who maybe never will attend church and really aren’t interested in the spiritual things,” she told Sports Spectrum last year. “But they’ll come because they’re going to see their heroes up on the stage and they’re going to hear stories that they would never hear anywhere else. It’s just been amazing to me what God does every year.”

Davis will join a list of past winners that includes Watson, Anthony Munoz, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, LaDanian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Derrick Brooks, Drew Brees, and many more.

The online special will take place Saturday, Feb. 6, and Dungy will present the award alongside Bart Starr’s wife, Cherry, and son, Bart Jr. For more information about the Bart Starr Award and the Super Bowl Breakfast online special, visit SuperBowlBreakfast.com.

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