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Smith has a new best friend

May 4, 2006 at 10:02 AM

It was a glorious Saturday for the San Francisco 49er faithful as the start of the 2006 NFL draft began to get underway. All 49er personnel and fans watched the drama unfolded right before their very eyes as the first few picks were announced this long anticipated day.

The San Francisco 49ers had positioned themselves at the #6 spot and eagerly waited to see where the chips fell as the announcements were made team by team. The cameras centered in on Vernon Davis’ table and the entire world waited and watched as his name was read as the San Francisco 49ers #6 pick of the 2006 NFL draft.

Vernon Davis (Tight End, Maryland) broke into sudden emotional tears as he terminated the phone call he had just been blessed with. All of what he had played so hard for, and loved…the very game we love each and every week of the season…had suddenly paid him the ultimate opportunity of a lifetime.

The tears of joy were almost interpreted (not only by me but also by others) as clear signs of anguish or despair. But they were genuine tears of joy and extreme jubilation as he wept with the knowledge that all of his dreams to be a professional football player had just been answered.

“My first thought was, I hope those were tears of joy,” the 49ers coach said after watching his first draft choice puddle up on national television and speaking to offensive coordinator Norv Turner on the phone.

However you look at it, Vernon Davis is very happy to be a San Francisco 49er and to be playing football on the opposite side of the United States. Some will and still are asking, Why a tight end? Well this phenomenal athlete is so much more than just a run of the mill tight end. He is a freak of nature, a one in a million prospect that grades literally right off the charts in terms of physical astuteness and mental longevity. He is an offensive weapon of the sharpest kind and was THE best offensive weapon next to running back Reggie Bush on the board in this year’s draft.

You really have to look at what the tight end position is doing for the modern NFL team nowadays. It has transformed the way the game is played in so many ways because of the versatility the position implies to others on the playing field. The new breed tight end is most athletic, long, fast, and can maybe catch the football better than your most elite wide receiver. There are some that are playing right now inside the NFL, like San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Baltimore’s Todd Heap. Anyone will confess to you at how valuable this position is; from coaches to quarterbacks and even beyond. The people that loathe them and wish they’d go away are some of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL today.

This year’s draft highlights a lot of those hybrid playing tight ends that were picked to help resolve their offensive quagmires. We happened to acquire the best of the best in Maryland’s Vernon Davis. This is a guy that will come into San Francisco mini-camps and training camp and will instantly make a name for himself. He is a workout warrior similar to the legendary Jerry Rice in some degrees, and has earned his well-sculptured physique with absolute resolution to very hard work and determination of the greatest magnitude.

Last season for Maryland, he caught a team-high 51 passes, for 871 yards and six touchdowns. His per-catch average of 17.1 yards would be envied by most current wide receivers. He is a physical phenomenon, one that will tip the offensive scale in our favor and be second-year San Francisco 49er quarterback Alex Smith’s very best friend. Having been ranked dead last in every offensive category in 2005, the new face of the 49ers, with Vernon Davis leading the way, will be a force to reckon with.

“That guy is a freak,” said one NFC scout.

“I feel good about being labeled the new breed of tight end,” Davis said. “That’s what it is, when you’ve got a guy who can do more than catch the ball. To get extra yardage after catching the ball, and make guys miss, that pretty much speaks for itself.”

Vernon Davis is very confident in his abilities without being overly flamboyant about it. He has a goal to “revolutionize” the tight end position, to consistently “take over” games in conjunction with the other offensive weapons around him.

Another NFL playmaker that was a teammate to Vernon Davis and is now with the San Diego Chargers is linebacker Shawne Merriman. He faced Vernon Davis on the University of Maryland practice fields; the one-on-one drills were epic classics. Shawne Merriman and Vernon Davis held daily grudge matches as they faced off against each other. “Oh, man, they were intense,” Davis recalled Sunday. “It was crazy.”

Shawne Merriman, a linebacker, went on to win NFL defensive rookie of the year honors last season for the San Diego Chargers. The 49ers are hopeful and will be anticipating that Vernon Davis will make that same impact upon an offense ranked dead last in every statistical category on the board.

“When I was a freshman, he kicked my butt,” the tight end said. “But by the time he left, he had to keep up with me. I was better than him on my routes and better than him on my blocking.”

Vernon Davis has a past that helped him mature into the fine gentleman he is today. It was Adaline Davis that took over custody of Vernon when he was just 2-years old. It was determined by his grandmother that his mother wasn’t at all into being a parent like she should’ve been. “She had us,” he once explained, “but it wasn’t to take care of us.” It was Adaline Davis that not only took Vernon in but would also take on Vernon’s two brothers and four sisters as well.

She helped engineer the trapdoors of a dangerous Washington D.C. neighborhood, a place where drugs and alcohol were running rampant. Many of Davis’s friends ended up dead or in jail. He admits he is the only person he knows that ever came out of there to be successful.

What so many of us as fans don’t take into account or come to realize is how these players came into the NFL and what they could’ve ended up as had they not been blessed with great athletic ability. Vernon Davis is a perfect example of a child that was surrounded by a den of inequity and survived almost every test and temptation there was through God’s will and grace, and his grandmother watching out for him. Adaline Davis was there for Vernon at almost every step of the way. She insisted that her grandson grow up and be polite and respectful to others (which he is off the field).

Then all of a sudden Vernon began running with a rough crowd in the eighth and ninth grades. Adaline intervened and told him he was going down a dangerous road. She insisted that they could still be his friends, and he might need them someday, but he could not do exactly what they did. Besides what his friends were doing, the entertainment options were very limited in what you could do and what you couldn’t do. So he spent nights at the gym, lifting weights. When you sit back and look at him now, that is easy to believe based upon the cut of his physique and what he offers at the table.

Vernon Davis is 6-foot-3 and 256-pounds. In fact, at Dunbar High School girls used to throw water on Davis, forcing him to take off his shirt and reveal, for a moment, the absolute perfection of his rippling physique. Davis had at one time the dream of someday being a great basketball player, but it was his friends that said he was too ripped physically to be playing the game of basketball. By the 10th grade Vernon Davis was in love with playing football. By the time he became a senior, he was named second-team all-nation by USA Today.

“We not only got the best tight end in the draft, but the best wide receiver in the draft,” Nolan said.

At the NFL Scouting Combine this year, Vernon Davis ran the 40-yard dash in an eye-popping 4.38 seconds. He also logged a 42 inch vertical leap and did 33 bench-press repetitions, a total most offensive line prospects would gladly take. His 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump was nearly a foot farther than any other tight end at the combine.

Going back to the University of Maryland his coaches will confess to you that when Vernon Davis hits you that you usually go down. You also better be an outstanding tackling machine if you think you are going to hail Mr. Davis down to the ground. After one catch against Clemson last year, Vernon Davis carried, according to some accounts, as many as a half dozen Tigers on his back. “They were falling off as they were trying to grab me,” Davis said laughing.

In fact Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen pleaded with Vernon to hit the ground, in fear of him sustaining an injury many times throughout the season. But Vernon Davis, who by the way idolizes former 49er receiver Terrell Owens, refuses to change his ultimate destiny; and that is to get to the end zone. “I was like, 'Coach, I don’t think I can do that because that’s part of my game’”, Davis said. “Every time I get the ball I want to score. If I’m going down then I’m not going to have that chance to break tackles.”

This is a guy that loves the game and wants the ball more than any wide receiver. Alex Smith will have a full-time job keeping Vernon Davis happy and tranquil by trying to feed him the football.

The San Francisco 49ers plan to implement some rather different looking offensive schemes based under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. He will apply many two-tight end sets with two wide receivers and a back in the backfield. Vernon Davis will be teamed up with tight end Eric Johnson to maximize our ability to move the ball even more so.

As you know, last year the 49ers never had a pass-catching threat at tight end, as four players at that position combined for 20 receptions and just 158 yards. Eric Johnson remained on injured reserve last season after sustaining a foot injury during training camp. In fact, Johnson has missed two of the past three seasons with injuries. But since then he has not missed a day of the team’s off-season conditioning program. Both Nolan and Turner have big plans for both of them now and plan to start utilizing the two tight end set a lot more.

Offensive weapons will abound if everyone stays healthy throughout the season. Alex Smith will play behind a solid offensive line and will have the time to make selected targets. Vernon Davis has rare top-line speed and agility. He will cause big waves in the NFL and as a San Francisco 49er.

Already, defensive coordinators are trying to scheme a way at shutting down this particular big-time playmaker as part of the new 49er offense. Michael Irving, an ESPN football analyst, has predicted that his old boss (offensive coordinator Norv Turner) will cultivate and reap the best from having Vernon Davis in his lineup.

I am very excited and looking forward to what the season has in store for us. Maryland’s Vernon Davis is the real deal, and we scored big time with his selection overall. This is a draft that will go down in the books as one of the more successful ones I have seen.

Vernon Davis instantly upgrades an offense hanging in the balance after so many losses last season due to injuries and misfires by a young unit trying to improve upon playing time experience and reaching the end zone on a consistent basis. Having two-formidable tight ends will draw fits from defenses trying to identify who to stop and how.

Be prepared to be in awe of this tremendous athlete. He is a cut out of any premier football magazine that all teams are drooling over. One exception is the San Francisco 49ers and its fans, who want Vernon to bring home the bacon.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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