Two-minute drill: Demario Davis

Our weekly Q&A -- an offbeat conversation with a player -- is with New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis. He's a first-year starter who already has emerged as an emotional leader on defense:

The late Steve McNair, the former Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens great, was your cousin. What kind of impact did he have on your career and your life?

Demario Davis: He was a first cousin. His dad and my mom are brother and sister. Definitely, having a cousin playing in the NFL is huge. He was a generation in front of me, so it wasn't like we were hanging out every day. I saw him on holidays when I was young. We'd throw the football around, talk football in the offseason.

McNair was known for his toughness. Did you get that gene, too?

DD: Our family is built on toughness. Adversity is going to happen, in life and on the football field. You have to be able to shrug it off. Life isn't about how much you can dish out; it's about how much you can take.

How much did his tragic death impact you? You were 20 years old when he was murdered.

DD: Anybody's death is tough, not just because he was a significant player. I have fond memories. It was tough. You see it, and it hurts. But it was huge to see how many people respected him and how many people were at his funeral, and to see what kind of impact he had in this world.

You grew up in a small town in Mississippi. Describe what that was like.

DD: Collins (pop. 2,600) is a very small town, very family oriented. Pretty much everybody knows everybody. It's very rural, with a lot of hunting and fishing-type stuff. Brandon (pop. 22,100) is a little bit bigger, little more of a city feel. It's more of a city versus a town. It's more of an impoverished type of area. I was raised in Brandon. My mom had me when she was 16, so I stayed with my grandmother in Collins. I came to Brandon when I was in third grade.

You've been here only a year, but you're already a vocal leader on defense. We've seen clips of you firing up the defense. Have you always been that kind of leader?

DD: I think it comes with the territory. I like doing that type of stuff. I'm a high-energy guy and I try to let my team feed off that. Guys look for me and want me to do it, so I don't mind doing it.

When the Jets drafted you, Rex Ryan compared you to Ray Lewis in terms of intangibles. How'd you feel when you heard that?

DD: He said my character kind of reminds him of Ray Lewis. It's probably just our passion for the game, our love for the game, our energy. Ray is a believer, I'm a believer. We live to encourage other human beings. It's not just about us. We're very selfless. I sense all of those things out of Ray. That's why he's a role model of mine, somebody I look up to. I kind of watch how he does things. I have a lot of respect for him for the way he does those things. Life is about being selfless. It's not about you, it's about the people around you. Every day I come into this locker room, it's about my teammates. It's not about me.