Giving Back with Zack: The day he got to hang out with the New Orleans Saints
Setting up interviews with NFL players when they’re in town for a game can be difficult. I’ve been told that every minute of their schedule is accounted for and there is no time available. But last November before the New Orleans Saints’ game against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, the Saints’ communications manager, Evan Meyers, was very accommodating when I asked about setting up players for an interview with Zack about their charitable efforts.
Evan offered to squeeze Zack in to interview a couple of their players after the game, right before they jumped on the bus to head home. Evan directed me to get media credentials and sit in the press box, and he would escort us down to the visitors’ locker room immediately after the game. He even told me who to contact at the Bucs organization to get that accomplished.
Knowing we wanted to interview positive adult role models making a difference off the field, he offered Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis, who both ended up being MVP’s on the field when they played the Bucs. These two players are men of character, with energy and charisma that shone through as they took the time to talk to Zack.
We waited outside the locker room while the major media outlets talked to players about the game. Then Evan brought us in and introduced us to Cameron Jordan, whose personality is larger than life. A tall, spirited, outgoing and engaging man, he focused all his attention on Zack as he asked his age. When Zack told him he was about to turn 13, Cameron responded that he loved kids that age and joked around a few more minutes before starting the interview.
Cameron was totally in that moment with Zack, as though he had all the time in the world, even though most of his teammates were already on the bus waiting for him.
He is a phenomenal football player — a five-time Pro Bowler with 463 total tackles and 87 sacks in his nine years with the Saints, after being drafted in the first round. Cameron’s father is Steve Jordan, a tight end who played 13 years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and who role-modeled giving back.
In 2017, Cameron was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for participating in community events on a weekly basis. That routine continues today as he visits a different school or hospital every week to get in front of kids and give of himself.
I saw that part of him after the interview. Zack asked about his unique “Walk the Dog” sneakers which, true to their name, had a tiny poop bag dangling off the side, and they joked about their love of sneakers. We had such a great time with him it was hard to leave.
We then moved over toward Demario Davis, who was finishing up with the media, and we waited as he finished getting dressed.
You could feel the tension in the locker room as the last people wanted to leave, but Demario turned around casually and gave us his undivided attention. He loved Zack interviewing him and kept sing-songing “Give Back Zack.” His demeanor during the interview was gentle and humble, but on the field he is intense, focused and determined, with over 800 tackles and 22 sacks in his career.
He is an outspoken, energizing leader, and that comes through with the charitable work he does off the field. He started the Devoted Dreamers Foundation to equip the next generation of leaders with education, ministry, sports and mentorship, and he does a lot of work with the Juvenile Justice system.
That ministry and his strong faith shone through this season when he turned a negative situation around and created something amazing. He was fined $7,000 for wearing a headband that said “Man of God” (it was deemed a uniform violation) and the ensuing hubbub started a movement. He then decided to sell similar headbands with the slogan “Man of God” – and ended up raising over $300,000 for St. Dominic’s Hospital in New Orleans, which is building a new emergency wing. (It’s also the hospital where his mother worked when he was in high school.)
As Demario said in his interview, “God is good.” He has taken his platform as a professional football player and is using it for good in a variety of ways, all to benefit others.