"It's like the possibilities are sort of endless," Davis says of her newfound fame

Credit: Ben Watts/Sport Illustrated

Hannah Davis was happy to be shooting for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm. But she didn’t think the setting editors picked for her would lead to a cover.

“I thought you had to be on a beach,” she joked to PEOPLE this week at SI‘s Swimsuit Fan Festival in New York’s Herald Square. “But I liked it because it was something different. SI is always known for going to exotic locations, so to sort of stay local and do the whole ‘America the Beautiful’ theme, I found it new and fresh.”

And freeing. Davis’s now-famous photo has turned the model (who dates Derek Jeter) into a household name. But she’s hoping the buzz will just continue to open doors.

“I really admire models like Kathy Ireland, Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum,” she said. “They used their SI platform to really do some amazing things, like have their own companies. I think now I’d like to get into the business world a little bit. I’ve never really had the resources prior to this, and now it’s like the possibilities are sort of endless.”

Last year’s cover girls, Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen, are just as excited for Davis. “She’s so beautiful and deserving,” Aldridge told PEOPLE. “And it’s definitely life-changing, getting the cover.”

Though the toothsome trio was split up this year – Agdal shot in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming; Aldridge and Teigen throughout Washington, Oregon and California – they still had a blast.

“I’d go anywhere,” Teigen said. Added Aldridge, “I think these beautiful locations around America are what people really want to see.”

While all four models hope SI will ask them back again next year, for now, the focus is all on Davis. And she has a special surprise waiting for her when she wraps her whirlwind press tour: As Aldridge revealed to her during our chat, “I framed your cover!”

The 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is on newsstands now.

• With reporting by Rosa Heyman