Since Vernon Davis came into the NFL in 2006, the San Francisco 49ers tight end has been opening eyes with his play on the field while opening his mouth off it.
Davis, San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2006 from Maryland, has been both a go-to guy for Niners quarterbacks and the reporters who cover the team, always available for a catch or a quote.
While much of the rest of the organization scoops up vanilla, Davis offers a flavorful change-of-pace, dishing up Chunky Monkey or Cherry Garcia and making every NFL season a more enjoyable adventure for fans and teammates.
In the latest example of Davis’ duality, he recently was recognized as one of the top 100 players in the league (No. 43 overall) in a vote of his peers, while also drawing attention for: 1) saying the 49ers should be a Super Bowl favorite and, 2) a statement he made while speaking to high school students in Washington, D.C.
His comment to the students that caused some criticism was that he has “a vision” to be “the best tight end to ever play this game.”
Immediately, naysayers went to the stat books to kick sand on his pronouncement, writing that he can hardly be the best of all time when he’s not even the best of the league’s current crop, which features such standouts as Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez.
Yet as Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle noted this week, Davis’ comment to the kids needs to be taken in context. In reality, it’s consistent with a player known for his hard work and intelligence.
The comment came in his hometown, as he was speaking to kids about working hard, setting goals and achieving their dreams, Lynch notes. While he said he wants to be the best of all time, he wants the students to know they, too, can achieve success by following a game plan.
“Hard work, having a plan,” Davis said, is the way to achieve success.
Hardly a radical concept. As Lynch wrote, “Now what is wrong with those five words?”
Davis, after all, may not be the best tight end to ever play the game or even the best in the NFL right now, but he’s among the best if his all-around play, effort and impact on this team are considered.
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wrote, Davis is an exceptional blocker, both in the running and passing game, and plays every down. Many of the top tight ends in the league are receivers first, blockers second. Davis, at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, does both very well.
Davis, despite a career during which 49ers’ quarterback play and offensive prowess has been spotty, has four seasons of 50 or more catches among his six in the league, including a high of 78 in 2009 when he also scored 13 touchdowns. Last season, he had 67 regular-season catches for 792 yards and six TDs.
Davis, however, might be on the cusp of his greatest seasons.
In the playoffs last season, he had 10 catches and four TDs in two games, including his amazing, game-winning reception against the Saints that’s become known as “The Grab.”
With the improvement of Smith at quarterback, more help at wide receiver this season to take the focus of secondaries away from him and a growing confidence from his success in the playoffs, Davis in 2012 might truly become “the best” he can be.
Will he be the best ever? No.
But he’ll certainly be worth talking about. And he may even give us some fun quotes, too.