When the San Francisco 49ers drafted tight end Vernon Davis with the 6th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, they had lofty hopes and aspirations for him. The player that was supposed to set numerous records while supplanting Tony Gonzales as the best tight end in the game, never came to fruition. Now, playing in his first Super Bowl, Davis will finally get the opportunity to show the world, how good he really is.
Throughout Davis’ seven year career, his stats have been a turbulent roller coaster. To put things in perspective, Davis only had three seasons where he accumulated more than 600 yards. Take for instance, this year, he registered a paltry 548 yards and five touchdowns. However, despite the lackluster stats, his true value lies in the running game.
Davis who was not known for his blocking ability coming out of the University of Maryland, is now arguably the best blocking tight-end in football. In fact, ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper criticized Davis’ blocking ability, on draft day, saying:
Blocking, that’s the suspect area…game in and game out, he has to show more of a willingness to be an effective blocker.
Seven years later, Davis has evolved into the very best, which is a main reason his stats has suffered. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh would rather use his freakish frame blocking, than catching passes across the middle. Why you ask? Your guess is as good as mine; one thing is for sure, as long as the 49ers are winning, Davis is not complaining. He’s the consummate team player, which wasn’t always the case, especially during the Mike Singletary days.
The coach that transformed a once selfish, arrogant, and egotistical diva, Singletary made him a better person by calling him out, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
It was Singletary’s head coaching debut on October 26, 2008, against division rival Seattle Seahawks. The chain of events occurred starting in the third quarter, as Davis caught a 7-yard pass, and then after the play, slapped Seahawks safety Brian Russell in the facemask. As Davis calmly walked off the field, a furious coach reprimanded Davis and told him to hit the showers. And that’s when the blessing in disguise took place.
During the post game press conference all eyes were on Singletary’s actions toward Davis. And Singletary responded saying:
We cannot make decisions that cost the team, and then come off the sideline and it’s nonchalant. No. I’d rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way, until we have to do something else, rather than play with 11, when I know that right now, that person is not sold out, to be a part of this team.
It is more about them, then it is about the team. Can not play with them, can not win with them, can not coach with them, can’t do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win.
Davis took that as a learning experience moving forward, saying:
I remember the very first time he kicked me off the field. Tears were shed. I told him, ‘I want to be traded Coach.’ He said, OK. I’ll find another team for you.That moment, it started to click for me. It made me a better man, a better teammate and a better leader for my team. It helped me become the player I am today.
Aside from being a great blocker and leader, Davis has been clutch throughout the playoffs, which is why I picked him as this year’s Super Bowl MVP.
Davis reminds me a lot of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann. A player that did not put up gaudy regular season statistics but rather saved his best for last, during postseason play. Davis who has been flirting with playoff records this year, tied former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, as the only players in NFL history with 100 receiving yards in back-to-back championship games. Furthermore, Davis holds the all-time record for receiving yards per game in the postseason with 110.5, according to ESPN.
As Davis continues to mature and lead, by putting the team first, the accolades will surely follow. And with Davis quickly establishing himself in the postseason record books, look for him to add another piece of hardware, to his trophy room- the Super Bowl MVP.