Vernon Davis Walks the Walk
OWINGS MILLS -- The dreadlocked young football player with the sculpted biceps, chiseled abdomen and pro wrestler's chest majored in art.
Vernon Davis' individual portrait of muscle and movement at the NFL scouting combine in February may have been his greatest masterpiece yet, eclipsing his collection of paintings, sculptures and sketches at the
. University of
It was a record-setting showcase for the All-American tight end's athleticism and physique, propelling his stock into the blue-chip category.
Not coincidentally, league officials have invited the former Terrapin to
City Music Hall
for Saturday's draft. His name is expected
to be called as soon as the New York
49ers' sixth overall draft pick.
At 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds,
resembles a cross
between an Olympic decathlete and a body
builder. Vernon Davis
"I want to revolutionize the tight end position,"
said in a telephone interview
Friday night. "I want to be remembered as
someone who changed the way people think
about tight ends and what they can do. Davis
"I want defensive coordinators to have to use their imagination to stop me from scoring touchdowns. I want to be the next big thing in the NFL."
At the combine in
-- a critical proving
ground for NFL prospects -- Indianapolis
ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.38
seconds. It's the fastest time ever by a
tight end. Davis
It tied the Washington, D.C. native for the fifth-fastest time among all incoming rookies with
wide receiver Sinorice Moss.
Moss is 5-8 and 184 pounds, seven inches
shorter and 69 pounds lighter than
Miami . Davis
To put it further in perspective, the average speed for tight ends was 4.81 seconds and the next fastest tight end behind
was 4.54 seconds. Davis ' vertical leap
of 42 inches was the highest at his
position, as was his leap of 10 feet, 8
inches in the standing broad jump. He bench
pressed 225 pounds for 33 repetitions, more
than the average hoisted by offensive
linemen who outweigh him by 50 to 100
off-the-charts physical qualities and his
production of 51 receptions for 871 yards
and six touchdowns last season, he's drawing
favorable comparisons to the likes of
Antonio Gates, Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap and
Tony Gonzalez. Davis
"Number one, he's faster than all of them and it ain't close," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end with the Cleveland Browns who caught 662 career passes for 7,980 yards and 47 touchdowns. "I interviewed
at the combine
and I enjoyed it, how he sees himself as a
"He is as explosive an athlete as I've seen come into the draft. You see explosiveness sometimes with players in the vertical jump. With him, you can see it on the field when he gets the ball or goes after the ball. That was exciting to see."
Nicknamed "Duke," –
' father was
"Big Duke," and he was called "Little Duke"
Davis felt comfortable leaving
school after his junior year after
consulting the NFL draft advisory council
and talking to San Diego Chargers outside
linebacker Shawne Merriman, a former
Davis standout. Maryland
"I left because there was nothing left for me to prove at
Maryland said. "It was starting to feel
like high school football did." Davis
Now, he wants to reinvigorate the position with his uncommon gifts.
"I feel good about being labeled the new breed of tight end,"
said. "That's what it is when
you 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." Davis
Although considered humble and respectful by his coaches and academic advisors,
Just look at his response when asked how he compares to the Chargers' Gates, an All-Pro who played basketball at
"I think Antonio Gates is good,"
said. "But there are some
things when I look at the guy he does a
little better than myself, and things I do
better than him as far as speed." Davis
About the only knock on
' game is that he's not a
dominant blocker. He acknowledged that he
could stand for some improvement at the
point of attack. Davis
"I'm always going to try to improve at everything,"
said Davis, who averaged 17.1 yards per catch last season.
"I take this very seriously, my preparation, my body, what I eat, everything,"
said. "This is
"He's so different than any guy," Friedgen said. "He's just in a class of his own."
A fortunate NFL offensive coordinator, quite possibly the 49ers' Norv Turner, is likely to devise schemes intended to create mismatches by isolating
against slower linebackers and
smaller defensive backs. Davis
"I get excited when I see that,"
said, "because I know I have
the advantage." Davis
Two years ago as the Browns' sixth overall pick, Kellen Winslow II signed a six-year, $40 million contract.
said he already has plans for
his impending wealth. He wants to purchase a
resplendent new home for his grandmother,
Adaline Davis. Davis
The colors and shapes are vividly running through
' mind, and he can't wait to
make his dreams a reality. Davis
"As a football player, I want to be regarded as one of the most hard-working, athletic guys in the NFL,"
said. "As a person, I want to
be known as one of the most genuine,
kind-hearted people you'll ever meet. I'm
going to do the same thing I did at
Davis : give it all I got,
everything I have." Maryland
Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.