New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis has been named the club's 2022 Man of the Year, making him the club nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. The 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 were announced Tuesday. This is the second time that Davis is the team nominee, having first been nominated in 2020.
"The Walter Payton Man of the Year is a special honor and I'm truly humbled to be the Saints nominee," Davis said. "It is particularly special to me, given my roots as a Mississippi native and that I share a home state with the great man that the award is named after. Helping those in need, especially youth, is something that is very close to my heart and it is a blessing to be able to help them achieve their dreams through the Devoted Dreamers Foundation."
"I am proud of all the good work that our players do in the community and the opportunity for it to be highlighted," Saints Owner Gayle Benson said. "Since Demario first came to New Orleans in 2018, he has had a passion for always working to make wherever he is better, whether that is our football team, our locker room, or helping those in the community in need. The leadership he brings to both this football team and to this community shows the impact that the National Football League and its players can have."
Davis has been a perfect fit on the field for the Saints as well as in the Gulf South community since signing with the club as an unrestricted free agent in 2018. On the field, he's opened all 77 regular season games that he's played in for New Orleans as the team's defensive signal-caller and five-time defensive team captain, leading the Saints in tackles over the period with 525 stops (346 solo), 22.5 sacks, two interceptions, 32 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two recoveries. In 2021, Davis was selected as an Associated Press All-Pro for the third consecutive season, leading the team with 105 tackles, three sacks, one pick and seven passes defensed for a defensive unit ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in eight major categories. In 2022, he has opened all 13 games at middle linebacker, anchoring a defense and fostering improvement out of a group that has surrendered 20 or fewer points in five of the last six contests, leading the team with 80 tackles (42 solo), while adding a club-best 6.5 sacks, one interception, five passes defensed and one fumble recovery. Overall, in his 11th NFL season, Davis has posted 1,185 career tackles, 36 sacks, three picks, 49 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.
On October 21, New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis was honored at the United Way of Southeast Louisiana's Alexis de Tocqueville Society Gala and Award Celebration with its highest award for exemplary leadership in community volunteerism and philanthropy.
Off the field, Davis has been heavily involved in community service, youth engagement, faith-based and social justice initiatives in the New Orleans area and in his home state of Mississippi. Davis and his wife, Tamela, started the Devoted Dreamers Foundation with the mission to equip the next generation of leaders 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 sixth-eighth, placing emphasis on financial literacy, reading comprehension, physical fitness and character development; while preparing youth for the upcoming school year.
An important current focus of Davis is to be able to expand the Devoted Dreamers Academy concept open a school instilling these important principles year round and his efforts in 2022 brought him close to realization of these goals. In January 2023, the Devoted Dreamers Academy will open in New Orleans as an after-school program, with tutoring programs, a seven-on-seven football team and additional educational vehicles and programs with the express purpose of exposing teenagers to future careers inside and outside of sports.
Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the school year, approximately 40 students are expected to attend the Devoted Dreamers Academy, a new education model for eighth-12th grade student-athletes centered on faith-based entrepreneurship, high-level personalized education, a unique Beyond Sports Curriculum with experiential labs that leverages sport as an educational opportunity to enhance knowledge around STEM, business, finance and more as a pathway to career opportunities. The program also touts an opportunity to join the Academy's Louisiana-based seven-on-seven team.
Through personal donations, fund-raising and his physical time and efforts, Davis plans for Devoted Dreamers Academy to operate as a full-service program for the 2024-25 school year.
In addition to his most recent initiative with the Devoted Dreamers Academy, through his foundation Davis supports a select seven-on-seven travel football team based in Mississippi which competes in several tournaments throughout the United States from February-June, while also providing important physical training, academic and mentorship support. His eventual goal is to host a statewide flag football tournament and host the Mississippi high school state combine.
Since coming to New Orleans, Davis has been active with the Players Coalition, 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 as a charter member on a dual Saints/Pelicans Social Justice Coalition formed by Saints Owner Gayle Benson to provide support to important social justice initiatives.
On Oct. 12, Davis moderated an open discussion with local experts and youth about gun violence in New Orleans. More than 200 students gathered at the event to speak to Davis and representatives of several nonprofits about crime, its causes and what they, the students feel should be done to reduce it. Davis and the panel alternated between listening and discussing potential solution, in front of a group aged 18-25, local university leaders and key city stakeholders.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis hosted a gun violence prevention forum at Dillard University on Tuesday, October 11, 2022.
Davis will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
All 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LVII. The 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a prime-time awards special to air the Thursday before Super Bowl LVII, on NBC.
All 32 nominees will receive up to a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive up to a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's eighth annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name or Twitter handle. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 6 and Jan. 8 will receive a $25,000 contribution to his 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.