Receiving the Call to Courage Award this year was a tremendous honor. To have Frank Reich and his group recognize me for something like that was really special.
A few months prior, Robert Brooks, my chaplain when I was with the Cleveland Browns, let me know he nominated me and that there was a good chance for me to win it, but I still felt undeserving. I’ve watched men like Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna and Don Davis — men who have played the game and modeled their walk with the Lord so well — receive this award. I’ve also seen some peers I really look up to, such as Thomas Davis and Benjamin Watson, accept this.
I’m honored to be in the same conversation as these men. It’s amazing to see all that God’s done in their lives, as well as my own.
While growing up with a dream of making it to the NFL, I never would have pictured myself in this position. When I thought of a career in football, I saw it as a self-glorifying outlet for me. I wanted to play in Super Bowls, be MVP and have everyone recognize me. For the younger Demario, football was all about getting accolades, making money and living a materialistic lifestyle.
But when my life was transformed by the Gospel of Christ during my college years, the way I looked at everything changed. Suddenly I saw this sport as a platform to let the Gospel go forth. I saw my teammates in the locker room as souls that needed life breathed into them — souls that could potentially change the world. I saw this sport as a mission field; no longer was it about me, it was about using the blessing of this stage as a way to give all glory to God.
While I was receiving the award, they talked about me being a leader in multiple locker rooms. They mentioned the respect I’ve earned around the league, not just on the field, but off it as well. Even after having a really strong season with the Jets last year, they talked about how my character shines even brighter than my stats. To have people say these things about you is extremely humbling. The Bible says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). To go places and have your name procede you in a positive way is a priceless thing.
I always want to be a man on a mission in the locker room. For me, this is about saving souls and impacting the fathers, husbands and men I am with every day. Off the field, I know there’s just as much need for Gospel transformation. Here in Louisiana, much like New York, there are a lot of problems in the criminal justice space. Furthermore, in this state there are more people jailed per capita than any other country in the world! I’ve already made contact with people within the criminal justice system to talk about becoming involved in reform work. While it can be intimidating, this work needs to be done and God has brought me to this specific place at this specific time to do His work.
My life, on and off the field, has been grounded in this mindset ever since God transformed me. To receive an award for that — by simply being obedient to what I’m called by God to do — is humbling. I aim to walk in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord, as we are all called to do, not so I can win an award, but in order to glorify Him. I only hope that receiving this award will bring more glory to Him.
As Christ-followers, we are designed to live courageously in the midst of a fallen world. We have the opportunity to share the Gospel and it’s not always going to be comfortable, but it’s what we’re called to do. When I leave this place, I want people to know I was a man devoted to Jesus, making His name known in as many places I could.
— Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints linebacker
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.