The most devoted of the dreamers had a vision, but Demario Davis' timeline was off.
Off, but only in one of the best possible ways.
On Friday, Davis, the New Orleans Saints' All-Pro linebacker, announced his vision of the Devoted Dreamers Academy, a school that will be designed to serve New Orleans youth through sports, academics and mentorship. Davis and his wife, Tamela, founded the Devoted Dreamers Foundation in 2013, and he believed a school would be part of the growth.
But not this quickly.
"Devoted Dreamers Foundation, we had a goal to launch a school in 2025," said Davis, who was keynote speaker at the Giving Hope Community Center fundraiser on Friday. "That was our goal. But I didn't foresee the resources to make that happen. I knew from an educational component, I would need a lot of people who had that type of background to come in.
"And so Angie Taylor, who is the founder of Valor Global Online, was a godsend. When she came that was really the last ingredient that we needed because we've already been doing it year round from an after school and summer school standpoint.
"But to be able to launch an everyday school, from 8 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.), we needed a critical piece. That accreditation that she brings, fully accredited at the highest level, kids coming out of school and go to any college in America, she's put out several Ivy League students. So once the resources came around and we put together the concept, then so much more support from the community came in."
Taylor and Valor Global, Davis said, offer an online curriculum that has participants in 35 different states. That curriculum will be placed in a sports hull that will serve kids and allow them to train year round.
Devoted Dreamers Foundation is working in conjunction with former Saints quarterback Drew Brees' foundation (the Brees Dream Foundation), Valor Global and Delgado Community College to bring the faith-based school into existence.
New Orleans Saints linebacker
"It's really two worlds coming together," Davis said. "There's Devoted Dreamers Foundation, and we've traditionally served youth in a holistic way – spiritually, mentally, physically – after school, summer school-type education while also allowing them to play sports. Kind of like an AAU side, with the 7-on-7 (football).
"We've had a ton of success on the sports side with the mentors – 48 kids have graduated our program, all 48 have gone to college, 40 of them on scholarship, 21 to Division I (schools). And now we have the educational component coming.
"We were coming into the Giving Hope Dream Center to do our same model as a foundation when we got introduced to the educational component. So we're really excited. It's going to be able to allow kids to have an elite sports type training year round, but also engage in an individualistic learning style that will be cultivated around their learning style, their strengths, their attributes. Understand the gifts that God has put inside them, call that out and teach them how to create solutions and also have an entrepreneurial mindset.
"But then we'll also introduce them to career pathways that exist outside of the game but in service to the game, like sports medicine – there are 100 jobs that exist in that space in sports medicine. Sports science – there are hundreds of jobs that exist in that space. Sports media – there are hundreds of jobs that exist in that space. So, that's kind of what the school would be about."
Having Drew Brees, his teammate from 2018-20, on board is significant.
"It means a lot, because ultimately what I feel like our responsibility as leaders is to do, is to provide an example," Davis said. "And what we're trying to provide is not just showing and highlighting the importance of working with youth and programs around youth, but it's the importance of collaboration and working together.
"I was so proud for Drew to bring his foundation on, because…when you bring powerful groups together, one plus one equals three. And that's what we want to demonstrate to the community. It's important for athletes to lead because we know how to work together as a team, and that's the biggest thing that we can do is show other groups how to work together as a team, because that's what it's going to ultimately take."
Brees said it was natural to support his teammate.
"Anything I can do to help support Demario and what he's doing through his Devoted Dreamers Foundation, but also the vision for this academy," he said. "The Brees Dream Foundation, when we first came to New Orleans, it was a calling. And that calling hasn't left.
"There's still a lot of work to be done. And I feel all that retirement has given me the opportunity to do, is dive in even further and make some of these initiatives a reality, things that we've been talking about for a long time, things that we've been working with the city to better understand as far as the greatest needs of this community, the true economic development plan for the city of New Orleans over the next five to 10 years.
"At the end of the day – Demario said it – it's not just one person or one organization that can get anything done. It is a collaborative effort between all of our organizations, the city of New Orleans, the community. The most important thing we can do is to understand exactly what the community wants and what the community needs and then be able to put all the resources together to implement that. And hopefully, today is the start of that."
Davis said he also has the support of current teammates Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Cam Jordan, as well as former teammate Terron Armstead. And Devoted Dreamers Academy in New Orleans only will be the beginning.
"Ultimately, we want to get the model right," he said. "I already have an opportunity to bring this to Mississippi, they're building out a campus and they want to bring it on in three years. I wanted to be able to work in Louisiana to help perfect that model and get it right so we can take it to Mississippi.
"Ultimately if we can get the model right, it's something that can be replicated in every state. What we really want to show is an organizational school that stands apart versus any other school in the state, and it's going to be because of how we individualize education and how we introduce them to other career pathways."