It took awhile for the stars to align for Demario Davis, who was a three-time All-Pro before receiving Pro Bowl recognition, even though the former is more prestigious and difficult to attain than the latter.
But they aligned at the perfect time for the New Orleans Saints linebacker, who was named All-Pro for the fourth consecutive year while earning his first Pro Bowl berth. Because Davis doesn't have a reference point, joining the Pro Bowl festivities this year – when the NFL totally changed the format and will conclude with a flag football game instead of the "traditional" game – this is the right time to join the fun.
"It seems amazing," Davis said Tuesday evening, shortly after arriving in Las Vegas. The Pro Bowl will be held Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Davis had one of his most productive seasons in 2022: A career-high 6.5 sacks, an interception, six passes defensed, 10 tackles for toss, eight quarterback hits, a fumble recovery and 109 tackles.
"It's my first year to be here, and I think there's no better year to be here understanding the dynamic, that they were trying to shift in nature to make it more of a player-friendly atmosphere, based on what the players have spoken that they wanted," he said. "It has the feel more of an all-star type week and an all-star weekend. Just getting here and seeing the hotel – it's been decked out.
"They've got a players lounge, then they've got a kids lounge for the kids, got things going on all week like the skills challenges. And they have some evening parties, like social hours for the families. They've got Top Golf and the Hard Rock Café for the week. So it seems like it's just going to be a fun week. It's my first experience, so I don't have anything to compare it to. I'm just excited."
Davis' travel party includes his wife, Tamela, their children, both of their parents, Tamela's sister and their nanny.
The players' schedule of NFC vs. AFC events includes Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball, a contest called Lightning Round, the Longest Drive, Precision Passing and Best Catch, all to be held Thursday.
"It's much more like a feel-good, kick-back-and-just-enjoy (mode)," Davis said. "They've made it very friendly for the family; that's why I was so excited to bring my kids, with the kids lounge and the happy hours in the evening for the family. You can bring all your guests and enjoy, everything is right here at the hotel. It's really conducive to do everything at the hotel.
"And then, even with the skills challenges and knowing at the end of the week it's just going to be a fun, kind of flag football game – it's going to be competitive, but it's going to be really fun. You don't have to have that stress of kind of knowing that that's coming, where you've got to suit up and be in pads and all that. It's just like a fun-filled week. They have the stage set for a lot of festivities, you can feel it when you step off the plane."
It also will give Davis a chance to rub elbows with fellow standouts, including teammate Cameron Jordan, outside of the exchanged postgame pleasantries or offseason events that may bring a few of them together. The All-Pro team doesn't assemble for activities or a game.
"One of the things I've always taken pride in is just being able to celebrate the guys around me," Davis said. "For me, the way that I show my gratefulness is to show my gratefulness for the people that are around me. This is a very challenging game, and the people who are here are people at the top of their game. And it's a week to celebrate them.
"So just to be in that space with them and be very congratulatory – there's going to be a lot of joking and kicking back and having fun, of course, because the NFL is just like a big fraternity. You form a lot of brotherhoods. That camaraderie, just to tap in and check in and just be around those guys and knowing that you have something that you share that's in common, and it's something to really be proud of, is great.
"Knowing that you're in that type of company and being able to celebrate those guys and congratulate them on something that's well done, because sometimes you can take it for granted, and just enjoying this moment."
From Las Vegas, Davis quickly will travel to Arizona, where Super Bowl LVII will be played at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. He was named Walter Payton Man of the Year for the Saints; each team names its individual Man of the Year, and the recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award will be announced live at NFL Honors on Feb. 9.
The award annually is given by the NFL to honor a player's community service work as well as his excellence on the field. Davis twice has earned the award for New Orleans, and his passion is his Devoted Dreamers Foundation.
The award carries with it a $250,000 donation to the winner's charity of choice. The other 31 nominees receive up to $40,000 donated to their charity of choice.
"Just being in the conversation means a lot for me, and I'm grateful," he said. "To be named 'the' Walter Payton Man of the Year for the NFL would be, of course, a tremendous honor just because of the legacy. The legacy that you're in that type of company.
"I know that getting it for the team level is a legacy in itself, but it's an even greater level legacy when you talk about, this is a trophy that's named after a person who modeled what it meant to be a leader on the field and elite off the field. So the trophy is named after someone that lived the life. This was a person who lived a great life and was an example for all of us.
"That torch has just been passed year after year to other great individuals who have led the way and pioneered. So just to be in that type of company – the reason why it is probably the most prestigious trophy you can get besides the Lombardi individually in this game is because of Walter Payton himself, and the men who modeled their lives and have kept that name so great.
"So it would be just a tremendous honor to receive that, and not to mention the great impact that you are able to do with the winnings that come in, the contribution that comes from winning that, the impact. And that's what it will always be about for me. It will never be about the accolades. It will be about the impact that you're able to leave on the lives of people with the work that you're able to do and the service that you're able to provide. And that's all I've ever tried to do, is just maximize myself to help others."
Additionally, Tamela Davis will participate in the Taste of the NFL 2023 event on Feb. 11.
Tamela Davis will prepare food for about 650 to 800 VIPs, Demario said.
"There are a lot of celebrity chefs cooking at this event," he said. "Many of them are cooking for the general crowd, 2,000 to 2,500. She's actually cooking for the VIP list. She'll be frying her famous catfish and some of her favorite sides as well. I'll be there supporting her at her station."
Don't worry, Davis said, the number won't overwhelm Tamela.
"She does the Dinner With The Davises (for his Devoted Dreamers Foundation), so she cooks for multiple hundreds of people all the time."
Check out photos of New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis in action throughout the 2022 season.