Demario Davis

New York Jets inside linebacker Demario Davis (56) reacts after a play against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game in East Rutherford, N.J. Davis is having the best season of his career in his sixth year in the NFL. 

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

By the time linebacker Demario Davis' plane left New York and landed in Arkansas on Wednesday, there were 500 or so messages waiting for him on his cell phone.

The congratulatory messages came from friends all over the country.

Many were from his friends in Arkansas, where he starred at Arkansas State.

And others were folks in his native Mississippi.

"They were happy I was coming back down South," Davis said. "It was crazy how many messages I had. I couldn't even get to the ones on Twitter and Instagram."

Davis, who spent the past four seasons with the New York Jets, is now a member of the New Orleans Saints, just three hours away from his hometown of Brandon, Mississippi.

He has one simple goal in the Big Easy.

"We've got to put another ring on Drew's finger," Davis said.

Davis signed a three-year, $24 million deal with $18 million guaranteed, according to a report by ESPN's Dianna Russini.

The 29-year old Davis said he had interest from about eight other teams. He wouldn't say what teams. But seeing how close the Saints were to reaching the Super Bowl this past season helped seal the deal for him.

"This game is about winning," Davis said. "It's a winning organization. You have one of the top, if not the top, quarterback in the game. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for Drew and what he does and being a part of a winning organization that is going to be contending for the playoffs year in and year out. You look at what the Saints did last year. They are right there. When you're right there, there are not a lot of changes that need to be made. I think they are on the cusp of something special and I just wanted to come in and be a part of that."

It's a decision Davis prayed about. He's a devout Christian. The gospel song "Take me to the King," followed by an inspirational message from Davis, greets callers to his cell phone.  

It helped, of course, getting a chance to play closer to home.

"That plays a huge part," said Davis, whose first cousin is the late Steve McNair. "I have family right there. But being so close can also be a distraction. I've been a minimum of at least four hours from home since high school, so that's going to be different. It's something that my wife and I had to factor in. It's good to be close to family. But at the same time, there is a bigger mission in front of us, and that's what we are trying to stay focused on."

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Davis just finished his best season. He recorded 135 tackles and five sacks for the Jets. It was his fifth season with the team, where he played as a rookie in 2012 after being drafted in the third round. He then played one season with the Cleveland Browns before returning to the Jets for the past four seasons. He has recorded at least 90 tackles in five straight seasons, including three when he eclipsed 100 tackles.

He possibly would have returned to the Jets, but that was a decision he didn't have to make.

"The shocking thing was the Jets didn't make me an offer, so that made my decision easy because all I had to do was look at the contenders," Davis said. "It would have been something to weigh. The hardest decision isn't where to go, but deciding if you want to go or stay. So I didn't have to make that decision so that was the peaceful thing about it. I was able to just weight my options objectively."

Davis is staying busy in the offseason. He had two speaking engagements in Arkansas on Wednesday and Thursday. He's also preparing for the Devoted Dreamers Academy, his foundation's seven-week summer camp for youth.

While juggling that, he's looking forward to joining his new team.

"They have a lot of good young talent on the defensive side of the ball, so I'm definitely looking forward to coming in and being a part of the fold," Davis said. "I remember it being electric in that environment. It says a lot about your team when they make it as far as they did last year. It's only one goal in mind, and that's winning a Super Bowl."

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.