At first, Demario Davis wasn't sure what I was talking about.
The ball in your locker? The interception a few hours ago?
"Oh, yeah," Davis finally said when I pointed to the pigskin, already wrapped around its circumference in trainers' tape and annotated by equipment men Gus Granneman and Vito Contento, ready for the showcase bronze treatment. "I mean, my whole thing is I just try to be humble when I'm out there. You make a play, you hand the ball to the ref, point to the sky because you know where your talent comes from, and celebrate with your teammates.
"Fortunately, I have some guys who cared enough and got the ball for me. They said, 'You need to keep that.' "
The interception against New Orleans was fairly significant in the green scheme of things. The ball, which Drew Brees intended to throw to TE Benjamin Watson and instead was popped into the air by Dawan Landry and into Davis' hands, was our first first-quarter takeaway since St. Louis last year. And it represented the first interception of Davis' pro career.
But Demario has had the bigger picture in mind since he arrived in April 2012 as our third-round draft choice out of Arkansas State. Rex Ryan noticed that when the head coach and his staff and scouts saw Davis "popping off the screen" during the predraft evaluation process.
"I'm not going to say Demario is the leader Ray Lewis is," Ryan said at the time to suddenly raised eyebrows, "but there are some things even when he talks to you, wow, he's really an impressive person and he gets it. He's a team guy and he's not an individual guy, he's all about the team and all about business."
Demario Davis had a fair rookie season playing behind Bart Scott, yet there were a few head-scratching assessments that somehow he was a "bust." But Ryan had a response for that during training camp when he said, "Now let's make sure everybody knows that when they say he's a bust — really? OK, we'll see if he's a bust. Now he gets to prove it."
Davis has done that, making plays with his speed and athleticism and growing knowledge of the Ryan/Dennis Thurman scheme. He flashed big-time late in the opener against Tampa Bay when he raced almost a half a field to take down WR Vincent Jackson to turn a clinching touchdown into a not-enough-to-survive-Nick Folk field goal. He shows up every game in his third-down production alongside David Harris, who's been our Mr. Third Down since his arrival in '07. He paid off again with that interception.
I also got a burst of that leadership Rex talked about this spring, when it seemed the only people who thought the Jets might be able to do some damage this season changed their clothes in the Atlantic Health Training Center locker room.
Even given that, Davis stood out among his teammates with his expectations for the year ahead.
"It's not just regular energy. It's a special energy," he said at the time. "There are some very big things, I think, about to take place, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a part of this unit. I've just got a feeling that some special things are about to occur. I see it every day. I know the stars are aligning for a very big year for the Jets."
One reason I wanted to chat with Demario after the Saints game, besides the ball at the bottom of his locker, was that prediction. Nine games into the season, the Jets were, are 5-4. Was this what he meant about "special things"? Or did he see much more than that?
"Look at every time we've won. It's been special," Davis said. "Go back to the Buccaneers, a very special win in the fourth quarter. Then a special win against Buffalo at home. Nobody expected us to beat New England. Everyone counted us out of this one and we were able to beat Drew Brees.
"You know, it's just all glory to God. I told everyone early on, you can sense something special. It's like every time we go into battle, His angels are with us and we're able to play a little bit faster, we're able to play together. The unity is phenomenal. We're confident going into every game."
For those who will rightly point out that God might have a few other favorite teams besides the Jets (such as a team called the Saints, perhaps?), Davis' position would seem to be more along the lines of "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." Among our ammo are timely contributions from rookie QB Geno Smith and his skill players, an emerging/scary defensive front seven, and Folk's magic instep.
And right in the middle of the mix is Demario Davis' talent and charismatic leadership ability.
"He's everything we thought he was," Ryan said. "That will be proved out as this year goes on."
And as Davis says about the final seven games of this now incredibly interesting season that resumes this week before next Sunday's game at Buffalo:
"Just imagine what's going to happen after we're able to win two in a row. This bus is really going to get rolling."