New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis has been named the club's 2020 Man of the Year, making him the club nominee for the National Football League Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is given annually by the NFL honoring a player's community service work as well as his excellence on the field. Team nominees for all 32 clubs have been announced Thursday, Dec. 10.
Davis has been a perfect fit on the field for the Saints as well as in the community in the New Orleans area since signing with the club as an unrestricted free agent in 2018 from the New York Jets. On the field, he has opened all 44 games for New Orleans as the team's defensive signal-caller and three-time defensive team captain, leading New Orleans in tackles over the period with 306 stops (218 solo), 13 sacks, one interception, 20 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. In 2019, Davis enjoyed his finest season to date as he was selected as a first-team Associated Press All-Pro, leading the team with 111 tackles, four sacks, one pick and a career-high 12 passes defensed. In 2020, he has followed that up and opened all 12 games, anchoring the NFL's first-ranked leader in opponent yards per game, second-ranked run defense and fourth-ranked scoring defense, leading the team with 75 tackles, while adding four sacks and four passes defensed. Overall, in his ninth NFL season, Davis has posted 966 career tackles (647 solo), 26.5 sacks, two picks, 37 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 24 special teams stops.
Off the field, Davis has been heavily involved in community service, youth engagement, faith-based and social justice initiatives both in the New Orleans area and in his home state of Mississippi. Davis started his own "Devoted Dreamers" foundation with the mission to equip the next generation of leaders (entertainers, athletes, politicians, doctors, lawyers, etc.) with the tools to be successful spiritually, mentally and physically, teaching everything from reading to finances to vehicle repair.
In 2013, Davis started his Devoted Dreamers Academy, which is a seven-week summer program for kids from the Jackson, Miss., area entering grades 6-8, placing emphasis on financial literacy, reading comprehension, physical fitness and character development; while preparing youth for the upcoming school year. His ultimate goal is to be able to open a school instilling these important principles year round. Davis supports a select seven-on-seven travel football team which competes in five tournaments throughout the United States from February-June, while also providing important physical training, academic and mentorship support. His goal is to host eventually statewide flag football tournament and host the Mississippi high school state combine.
Since coming to New Orleans, Davis has been active both behind the scenes and in front with the local legal system, working for changes in sentencing, bail reform, eliminating prison violence, strengthening the Orleans Parish Public Defenders Office and law enforcement reforms
Within the Saints organization, Davis' recent contributions have also been instrumental despite the challenges of Covid-19. He is a charter member and plays a vital role on a dual Saints/Pelicans Social Justice Coalition formed by Saints Owner Gayle Benson to provide support to initiatives. The first major initiative was Davis engaging several Saints teammates starting "#SayHerName", which has produced roundtable discussions on a weekly basis among players in the effort to better support black women and their roles as household leaders as well as supporting them against the dual threats of racism and sexism that they face.
Davis conducted many of these good deeds this offseason as he and his wife Tamela faced a major personal crisis when their one-year old daughter Carly-Faith, was diagnosed with a cancerous eye tumor, retinoblastoma, last spring. Carly-Faith had to have her left eye removed, but all medical checkups since have been positive and they are confident a recurrence will not happen. Through their experiences, concern for what the parents of pediatric cancer patients go through and the appreciation for the medical professionals that successfully treated her daughter, the Davis' have made personal financial donations and solicited donations to increase retinoblastoma research, as it is difficult to diagnose as only approximately 300 children are diagnosed per year.
Davis will wear a 'Man of the Year' helmet decal beginning in Sunday's contest at the Philadelphia Eagles and throughout the remainder of the season in recognition of his efforts on and off the field.
For the third year in a row, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LV. The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour prime-time awards special to air nationally the week of Super Bowl LV on CBS.
All 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year team nominees will receive a donation of $40,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's sixth annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote the 32 team nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 10 and Jan. 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second- and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear. New this year, fans can win NFL Shop gift cards and additional money for their favorite nominee's charity. Each Monday during the #WPMOYChallenge, Nationwide will ask fans to respond on Twitter with their favorite nominee and one randomly selected fan each week will win a $100 NFL Shop gift card and $2,500 for their favorite nominee's charity.
More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award can be found at http://www.nfl.com/manoftheyear.