THE INCREASE: The Welcome Back - Demario Davis

Being traded back to New York was a surprise. I really didn’t see it coming, and at first, I was a bit shocked. I didn’t feel like our time in Cleveland was coming to an end.

I had a surge of thoughts and feelings when the news hit. My family and I had grown attached to Cleveland. It felt like we had been there for four or five years, when in actuality, we’d only been gone from New York for a year. It was tough saying goodbye to the teammates and friends we’d made in Ohio, but the huge welcome back we received in New York was incredible. The whole thing was bittersweet.

Though we felt like we had spent years building friendships and establishing ourselves in Cleveland, once we came back to New York it was as if we had never left. It felt more like we had been on a long retreat. We were welcomed back by so many familiar faces, reconnecting the many deep relationships we had made both on and off the field. At that point, I realized God’s plan couldn’t have gone any better!

I know God placed my family and me in Cleveland for a purpose. We were there to plant and water seeds for the Gospel, invest and grow in relationships with others, and develop my skills as a linebacker. Though we had grown attached to Cleveland and the people within it, God has made it clear that our family’s mission there is complete. I know our lives and purposes are not of our own choosing, they belong to God. He sees the big picture and knows exactly where we need to be and when.

As my mentor says, “God never gets the wrong address.” God’s shipping us back to New York for a reason, just like He brought us to Cleveland for a reason.

Looking back at my year with the Browns, I see how much I grew individually as a person and a player, I see how much my wife and I grew in our marriage, and I see how our family grew closer to each other and to the Lord. It was a year for us to rest mentally, away from the crazy whirlwind of New York City. We were able to take a step back and process everything that happened within our first four years in the NFL. Having taken that rest, we are now ready to go back.

Not only are my wife and I on a whole new level as a couple, I’m on a whole new level as a player. I was able to dissect my game in the offseason and look at areas of my play that were insufficient. I know that I grew more in this past offseason than I have in the last five offseasons combined. And it’s made all the difference.

God brought me to a place of great humility during my year in Cleveland. Things did not go as I had hoped they would. I was under a lot of stress. In the midst of it all, I remember coming to a point where I had to say to God, “Whatever happens from this point forward, it’s all about You.” I surrendered football to the Lord and when I did, everything changed. My mind was refocused, my body was rejuvenated, and I was excited for what the Lord had in store for me. If for nothing else, all of last year was worth this one moment—the moment I finally and fully surrendered my career to God. And just like in Cleveland, I can’t take any glory for what God’s about to do in New York. It’s all up to Him.

A few weeks ago I was asking God, “Why do You always have to take me the long way around to get where I’m supposed to be?” But He showed me that sometimes we need to take a step back in order to take a step forward. That next morning I was traded, only adding to the confirmation of God’s great plan.

At first, it appeared as if this transition would be a demotion for me. Here I was, a middle linebacker in Cleveland, with my whole team looking to me to lead defense. I couldn’t help but question, “Why is God taking me to New York where I will most likely be a backup?” But I felt in my spirit God tell me this was no demotion, but a promotion. Only a few days after I arrived in New York, the Jets’ middle linebacker had been released and the coach brought me in to tell me I would be middle linebacker. I wasn’t shocked. Instead, I was able to tell my coach I was ready for this. God has prepared me for this.

God took me away to prepare me for what’s coming. Now I’m prepared. I know what I have to do to perform at a high level to lead my teammates. Whatever happens, it’s by God’s design and everything He’s doing is for His glory.

I’m looking forward to what God is going to do this year. The biggest and most exciting thing to me is the understanding I now have that football is just a cloak I wear right now in the greater mission God has for us. I don’t want to get so caught up in the details that I miss opportunities God gives me to touch people’s lives. I want the name of Jesus Christ to increase in New York and beyond. I am ready and available to reach whoever God is going to use me to impact for His Kingdom.

—Demario Davis

Demario Davis is a regular contributor to The Increase and will be providing monthly articles and opinions.