Saints LB Demario Davis, a true 'Servant of Christ,' continuing to excel in back half of career

Usually, an NFL player’s production will diminish as he reaches the age of 30 and his body begins to slow down. Not so with New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis. In fact, it’s the opposite.

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Davis, who will be 33 in less than a month, has had arguably the best five seasons of his career in the last five years. During that span, he ranks fourth in the NFL with 563 tackles and first with 21 sacks among off-the-ball linebackers. He’s on pace to record his fifth straight 100-tackle season. And he’s become the face of a Saints defense that has had the No. 1 rush defense in the NFL since he arrived in 2018.

For his efforts, Davis earned a first-team All-Pro selection in 2019 and a second-team All-Pro selection in 2020 despite never having made a Pro Bowl.

The kind of player Davis has become in New Orleans is a surprise, perhaps most of all to Davis himself. According to ESPN, five years ago as he was wrapping up the 2016 season with the Cleveland Browns, Davis sat down with his wife, Tamela, and told her his NFL career may be nearing its end. He was exhausted from his year in Cleveland and the four seasons before that with the New York Jets (the team that drafted him in the third round out of Arkansas State in 2012).

Davis, one of the most outspoken followers of Christ in the NFL, decided to pray about it.

“He went in that stinky shoe closet (which doubled as a prayer closet in the Davis household) and he was just crying out to God,” Tamela Davis recently told ESPN. “He always says he waved the white flag. ‘OK God, I’m done. But if You’re not finished with me, You have to renew me and give me the strength and the endurance and the mindset.’

“And God did what He did, and here we are.”

“God wasn’t done with me,” Demario told ESPN.

What followed was a trade from the Browns back to the Jets in 2017. Davis proceeded to record a career-high 135 combined tackles that season, which he parlayed into a three-year, $24 million free-agent deal with the Saints in 2018.

That year, Davis reached his first postseason, as his excellence on the field and leadership qualities off of it provided an immediate jolt. With Davis manning the middle of the defense and leading the team with inspiring pre-game speeches, the Saints have reached the playoffs each of the past three seasons.

“He was always a leader who rallied everybody around,” Todd Bowles, Davis’ head coach with the Jets, told ESPN. “He always played 100 percent. And he’s one of the most genuine guys you’re probably ever gonna meet, from a leadership standpoint, from helping out a teammate off the field, from a family man, from just a God-fearing man, the guy checks all the boxes.”

Davis, who calls himself a “Servant of Christ” in his Twitter bio and wears eye black with three crosses under his right eye during games, speaks often and honestly about his love for Jesus. He also puts his faith into action.

Famously, Davis was fined (it was later rescinded) for wearing a “Man of God” headband during warmups in 2019. He promptly began to sell the headbands, with the proceeds going to charity.

Davis won the NFL’s 2021 Bart Starr Award for the player who best exemplified outstanding character and leadership, and he was the Saints’ 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee due to his charitable work off the field. During his career, he’s sought to meet the needs of migrant families, advocate for criminal justice and police reform, and work to provide needed accommodations for people with disabilities.

Since they began the Devoted Dreamers Foundation just one year into Demario’s NFL career, he and Tamela have worked to provide education and resources for youth.

Davis’ platform has expanded in recent years due to his All-Pro level of play on the field, and he knows God is using him in profound ways to accomplish His purposes in the world.

As Davis told ESPN, “I want people to realize that God likes to use you as you are.”

Davis, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, will suit up again in this week’s featured Sunday night game, as the Saints (6-7) travel to Tampa to take on the division-rival Buccaneers (10-3). The game is set for 8:20 p.m. ET.

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SS PODCAST: Demario Davis – New Orleans Saints linebacker (2020)
SS PODCAST: Demario Davis – New Orleans Saints linebacker (2019)