Joe Malfa continues our Turn On The Jets interview series by sitting down with New York Jets starting inside linebacker, Demario Davis. Don’t miss his conversation with TJ Barnes from last week. A big thanks to Demario for taking the time to speak with us…
I know you recently welcomed your second child into the world — congratulations!Thank you man, it has been a blessing.
Now, what’s the tougher task — being a father of two or getting through an NFL training camp?
[Laughs] I don’t know that’s a tough question because they are both equally challenging and they are both equally enjoyable. I really can’t say which one is harder or more challenging, but even though I love my job I would have to lean toward being a father as the more enjoyable of the two.
What has your offseason consisted of this year?This year I spent a lot of time up in New Jersey with my wife since she was pregnant with the baby, so I didn’t have a chance to get home to Mississippi as much. I have done a lot of training, I’ve spent a lot of time with my family, and I did get back to Mississippi for a little bit to host my camp.
I know you do a lot of charity work throughout the year, so tell me a bit about some of the organizations you work with.
I do a summer camp back in Mississippi with United Way. They have a Project Fund with me, so whatever funds I raise I am able to send directly to them and they use those funds to put together a camp. The camp teaches the kids business tools, reading comprehension, physical fitness, helps them build character, and further forms their relationships with God.
I know you recently had your charity bike ride — tell me a little bit about that.The bike ride was for the charity “Flywheel,” and we hosted an event to raise funds for the organization. A bunch of teammates and a lot of fans came out to support the cause. They were asked to give $50 per bike and some people gave all the way up to $800, so it was a very successful event overall. We raised a lot of money for my United Way Project Fund for the kids back in Mississippi.
Now let’s shift gears a bit and get to the football related questions. So far, have you noticed more similarities or more differences between Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles?
I really don’t get into my past coaches when I have a new coach. I really just try to focus on what I have in the present, and that is Todd Bowles. He is a great football mind, a great defensive mind, and he has a vision and a plan for the team. He is a well respected coach, all the guys have bought in, and we are all very excited about this season.
Does you role change at all in this defense, or is it similar to what you have done in the past?
My role is similar to what it has been. Doing what Todd wants me to do is no different than anything I’ve done before. There are no new obstacles in front of me as far as a role change. He uses me in a lot of versatile ways, but it is all stuff I have done before.
It is evident that you have emerged as one of the team’s emotional leaders on the field — what personal qualities have led you to take on such a role this early in your career that would normally be possessed by a more experienced veteran?
We have great leaders in our locker room with David Harris, Revis and Cromartie are back, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Nick Mangold. They set a standard of what is expected, and when I was younger I was able to just watch those guys and learn from them — now I am able to use what I have learned. Those guys are not as vocal as I am, so when there is something to be said, I will be the one who doesn’t have a problem getting up and saying it. They are great leaders by example both on and off the field. I try to lead by example like they do, but I don’t have a problem with being vocal and leading that way as well. Vocal and emotional leadership is an area I am strong in, so I just put it to use and took on that role.
You mentioned Revis and Cromartie, two guys you got to play with early in your career — what is it like to have them back around on the defense?
It instantly changes our defense to have them on the back end. It is a pass-happy league, so you have to be able to cover and having guys like Revis and Cromartie in coverage make things easier on everyone up front. I am very enthusiastic about having those guys back and so is everyone else in the building.
Sheldon Richardson has his four game suspension at the beginning of the year — as a teammate, how do you rally around that?
I think the most important part about being a teammate is being there when someone is going through a tough time. He knows that we have his back and support him in this tough time. We are human beings, we all make mistakes, and we all have to bounce back. I know if anyone is going to able to bounce back and try to be better than they were before, it’s someone like Sheldon. As teammates, we just have to be there for him and we have to continue to perform on the field in his absence. We are still a team, we are still united, and we just have to try be positive about it.
Recently in an interview, you said you are a big believer in Geno Smith. People on the outside always pass negative judgments on him based on the numbers he has put up through two seasons, but you are on the inside and know him like fans and media members don’t — what about Geno leads you to believe in him?
Just his character and his demeanor. To be successful in this league, you have to have talent and the will to work at your craft — he has both. He has the talent to make every throw and make a lot of throws that other QBs in the league can’t make. Everyone knows he has the talent and strength in his arm, but what they don’t know is that he puts in a lot of time to better himself. He spends a lot of time working with players inside and outside of the facility because he really cares about and is devoted to becoming the best player he can be. There is a lot of pressure on the QB of any team, but especially in New York.
My main point is if you want someone to do well, you have to support him. If you continue to bash anybody, they are fighting two battles — the opponents on the field and the people who are supposedly rooting for them. I believe in him from what I see, and what I see is the Geno behind the scenes that media members and fans can’t see — he has all of the intangibles. My message is this — if anyone is going to call themselves a fan and Geno is your starting QB, you have to support him. If you are going to bash him, you might as well be the enemy. That is just the way I feel about it.
You have steadily improved every year since your rookie year — what do you need to do in order to enter that next tier of linebackers in the league?
I think there is always room to improve. There are always more plays that I have to make, I have to have a more physical presence in the run game, I have to make more plays in the passing game, I have to get more sacks, and I have to force more turnovers in order to take that next step. Turnovers are key for this defense, and I just have to make more plays in order to help this defense as much as I can. At the end of the day, the goal is to do your job the best you can and I am just trying to be the best I can be for my team.
With this team’s defensive line and secondary, a lot of analysts have pegged the linebacking corps as the defense’s weak link — how would you respond to that?
[Laughs] If people feel like the linebackers are the weak link, that means we are surrounded by a lot of talent. I know that every time I step out onto the field, I feel like I am the best player on the field, and standing beside Davis Harris, I always feel like we are the best linebacking duo in the league — that’s just my mentality. If people feel like the linebacking corps is the weak link, that’s a good thing in my mind because it means I’m surrounded by great players.
You have yet to make the playoffs in your career — what is different about this team from past teams that leads you to believe a playoff run can be made?
It is too early to know if you’re a playoff team or not. You can think you are a playoff team — every team does. I know teams who thought they were playoff material who didn’t get in, and teams who had low expectations that made playoff runs. You just have to wait until November to know if you have a chance, and if you do have a chance, you have to do whatever it takes to make the most of your opportunity.
The 2015 Jets will make the playoffs and compete for a championship if…
We just play together as one unit. Anytime you have a family, a family is hard to beat so that’s what we have to be — a family.