Former Saints player gifts college scholarships to 22 seniors in New Orleans

Victoria Hernandez
USA TODAY Sports+

Malcolm Jenkins hung up his helmet after the 2021 season but hasn't retired from his role as a member of the New Orleans Saints' community. The former safety gave away $1,500 scholarships to 22 seniors through The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation earlier this month.

"All the things that the game has given me and taught me, I'm just excited to apply those same lessons in other parts and facets of my life," the two-time Super Bowl champion said in a promotional video. "When we first started the foundation back in 2010 here in the city of New Orleans, we had dreams of what we could make it. We only could speculate how many lives we could impact and what we could actually do."

Jenkins was drafted by the Saints in 2009 out of Ohio State and spent five seasons with the team before a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. He circled back to New Orleans for two years to end his career. The three-time Pro Bowler hails from New Jersey but has made it clear that the Big Easy is a second home.

Darvell Hall was a recipient of the scholarship, which will allow him to attend his dream school, Jackson State University.

"Now I'm one foot in the door," he said.

Tiffany Silvan will be a student at LSU and expressed her appreciation for Jenkins' support.

"I haven't really had any opportunities like this," she said. "For a celebrity to give me a scholarship, that was amazing. And he played for the Saints. Even though he's a celebrity, he came to our community, even though he's not from here, he came to our community and helped us."

Jenkins is clear that this empowerment is essential to his vision.

"In my opinion, they don't need pity parties or anything elaborate," he said. "They need investments. And most of that is time and belief and those are two things that I try to give through my foundation."

The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation spent the last decade partnering with local organization College Track New Orleans to support the community by giving away holiday baskets, encouraging financial literacy and providing mental health resources. To date, they've given out $208,000 in scholarships

FILE - New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, left, celebrates with outside linebacker Demario Davis (56) after the team defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. On Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, two people familiar with the decision say the New Orleans Saints have promoted Allen to head coach.  (AP Photo/Jason Behnken, File)

Demario Davis announces Devoted Dreamers Academy

Another Saint giving back to his community, Linebacker Demario Davis announced the opening of Devoted Dreamers Academy last week. The school will be based in 9th Ward, a low-income community devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

It will serve local youth by combining academics, sports and mentorship. The academy is based on the summer program Davis has offered in his home state of Mississippi through his Devoted Dreamers foundation. The organization, founded in 2013 with Davis' wife Tamela, also hosts seven-on-seven football programs and mentorship programs for girls.

With the partnership of Angie Taylor, co-founder of curriculum service provider Valor Global, the Devoted Dreamers Academy is ready to open in the fall with 60 students in grades 8-12, according to NOLA.com. Classes will take place at Delgado Community College and students have the option to dual-enroll if they want to participate in state-sanctioned athletics.

The school will follow an outline that's already created success through the previous programs. All 48 participating students have graduated and gone to college, with 13 of them receiving Division 1 scholarships. The program incorporates participation in sports but also explores career opportunities surrounding sports — including business, media and medicine.

"We're really excited. It's going to be able to allow kids to have an elite sports type training year-round, but also engage in an individualistic learning style that will be cultivated around their learning style, their strengths, their attributes," Davis said in a press release. "Understand the gifts that God has put inside them, call that out and teach them how to create solutions and also have an entrepreneurial mindset."

Davis is partnering with Drew Brees and his Brees Dream Foundation for the Devoted Dreamers Academy. The linebacker joined the Saints in 2018 and spent three seasons with the 13-time Pro Bowler before Brees retired in 2021.

"What I love is to have my former teammate and a guy like Demario Davis who has done so much with his foundation, Devoted Dreamers Foundation, not just in the state of Mississippi, but now in New Orleans," Brees said, "to hear that vision, to be able to share in that vision, I think it's incredible and it will be the first of its kind."

Brees also shared how retirement has freed him up to invest more in the community and fulfill the vision of his own foundation.

"Anything I can do to help support Demario and what he's doing through his Devoted Dreamers Foundation, but also the vision for this academy," he said. "The Brees Dream Foundation, when we first came to New Orleans, it was a calling. And that calling hasn't left.

"I feel all that retirement has given me the opportunity to do, is dive in even further and make some of these initiatives a reality, things that we've been talking about for a long time, things that we've been working with the city to better understand as far as the greatest needs of this community, the true economic development plan for the city of New Orleans over the next five to 10 years."

Davis expressed gratitude for having Brees alongside, showing how teamwork goes beyond the playing field.

"What we're trying to provide is not just showing and highlighting the importance of working with youth and programs around youth, but it's the importance of collaboration and working together," he said. "...It's important for athletes to lead because we know how to work together as a team, and that's the biggest thing that we can do is show other groups how to work together as a team, because that's what it's going to ultimately take."

Davis is planning to bring the school to Mississippi next and make a scalable model that can be carried into every state.