- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This was what Vernon Davis had in mind all along. Even as he waited for two seasons for an expanded role in the Maryland football team’s offense and occasionally asked veteran players when he would become more involved, the District native knew he could become a game-changing force at the collegiate level.

He has been that and more for the Terps, a not-so-secret weapon opponents have been forced to plan around and the catalyst for a passing game that was mostly nonexistent a year ago.

Davis has matured as a receiver, but his ability to drag several defenders after making a catch reflects his on-field intensity and has provided some of his most memorable highlights this season.

“I’ve definitely shown what I can do this season,” the junior tight end said. “I think I can do more.”

That can’t be a welcome prospect for N.C. State (5-5, 2-5 ACC), which plays host to Maryland (5-5, 3-4) on Saturday in a game that will determine the postseason eligibility for both teams. Yet there is a chance it will be the last time Davis wears his No. 18 Terps jersey.

Davis has shrugged off any talk of turning pro, preferring to discuss Maryland’s postseason push. The potential All-American plans to make any decision after Maryland’s season is complete. He will consult with his grandmother, Adaline Davis, while making his choice.

“I try to block it out,” said Davis, who yesterday was named a finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. “That’s something I’ve definitely tried to block out to this point. After the season’s over, I’m going to give it some thought and see what I want to do.”

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he would consult the NFL Players Association and four or five general managers to determine where Davis likely would be drafted once the season is over and discuss the feedback with the tight end. Friedgen said he spoken with Davis two or three times about the situation, most recently after Saturday’s loss to Boston College, and reinforced Davis’ approach to finish the season before making any decision.

“I told him ‘Let this play out,’” Friedgen said. “Whether the season ends Saturday or we play the bowl, let’s just play the season because he’s getting inundated by agents, guys from the hood and homeboys and everybody else. Everybody is in his ear.”

To be fair, there are not many 6-foot-3, 253-pound tight ends who have run a 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds within the last season. And his on-field statistics are just as impressive — Davis leads the Terps in receptions (43), receiving yards (763) and receiving touchdowns (five).

As those numbers attest, few foes have contained him. Boston College had success trying to jam Davis near the line of scrimmage Saturday, but Davis still caught a touchdown pass against the Eagles.

“You can play everybody else a certain way, but Vernon, he’s a receiver at tight end,” linebacker Wesley Jefferson said. “He’s like an offensive lineman and a receiver put together. He’s strong and fast and bigger than everybody, but yet can move like a wideout or a running back.”

Davis combines a fierce competitive streak with his athleticism, creating an interesting dichotomy for a man who seems extremely relaxed outside the lines. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach often smiles when he watches practice film and sees Davis spike a ball near a defensive player after making a catch, but he also observes the laid-back Davis off the field, the one “you wouldn’t know is a future NFL tight end.”

Like many Terps, Hollenbach would like Davis to stay at Maryland another year for both his on- and off-field contributions to the program. They won’t know for certain until after the season, and the Terps only can hope that comes after a trip to a bowl game.

“I think he’s got a long career ahead of him,” Maryland offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe said. “He’s still learning. He’s not a finished product. I hope he waits a year to get rich, but he’s got a great future ahead of him.”

Notes — Friedgen said quarterback Jordan Steffy (illness) would not make the trip to N.C. State, with true freshman Chris Turner serving as the No. 3 quarterback. Tailback Keon Lattimore (shoulder) is also unlikely to make the trip. … Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was named a finalist for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player. Linebackers A.J. Hawk (Ohio State) and Paul Posluszny (Penn State) are the other finalists.

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