- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

NEW YORK — The tears were of excitement and joy, satisfaction and gratification. Before the San Francisco 49ers even called his cell phone yesterday at 1:02 p.m., District native and Maryland tight end Vernon Davis’ eyes were already welling up.

Which made his grandmother, Adaline, and younger brother, Vontae, also tear up.

“It’s been a long, long time since he was that emotional,” Adaline said. “I thought he would be macho like all men are. But I raised him, so when he starts crying, that gets me going.”

Moments later, though, the entire Davis family was all smiles on the Radio City Music Hall stage as they posed with Vernon’s new 49ers jersey after San Francisco made him the sixth pick in the NFL Draft.

With nearly 90 family members and friends in attendance, Davis became only the 11th tight end since 1967 to be chosen in the top 10. He also became the first Maryland player since 1977 to be chosen in the first 10 picks.

When the New York Jets chose Virginia offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson at No. 4, Davis said he started getting emotional in the waiting area, where he was joined by his grandmother, father, brother, aunt and agent.

“I knew Green Bay or San Francisco would be taking me,” he said. “When the Packers took [linebacker] A.J. Hawk, I knew I would be going to a team that wanted me. I knew [the tears] would be coming because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was pretty overwhelming.”

San Francisco needed less than the half of the allotted 15 minutes to decide on Davis, who will be expected to help quarterback Alex Smith return the 49ers to respectability.

“We felt we not only got the best tight end in the draft,” San Francisco coach Mike Nolan said. “But we got the best receiver in the draft. … As is evident in the NFL, if you have certain types of tight ends, whether it be [Antonio] Gates or [Tony] Gonzalez or [Todd] Heap, and I’m sure there are others, they have become a very valuable wide receiver often and that’s very important to us.”

The 49ers in 2005 finished last in the NFL in yards and scored the third-fewest points.

“Alex is going to be great for the team but he needs the right weapons around him and I feel I can be one of those guys,” Davis said.

Davis had 51 catches and six touchdowns for the Terps last season. Former Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner is the 49ers new offensive coordinator, and throughout his career, Turner has made tight ends Jay Novacek (Dallas) and Antonio Gates (San Diego) integral parts of his passing offense.

“I definitely think I can make an impact right away because it seems like I’m already familiar with Coach Turner’s offense,” Davis said. “It’s a great system for me and a great situation that I’m going to. [Turner] has as great history of knowing how to use tight ends and put them in great spots.”

Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen agrees.

“I know Norv and Norv has a really good offensive mind,” Friedgen said. “He’ll do a lot of the same things we did. Norv, his lineage comes from Coryell, so there’s a lot of similarities. I think that will help Vernon even more.”

Whenever Vernon plays on the East Coast during his career, he can expect to have dozens of relatives in attendance. His following narrowly outnumbered the Vince Young’s contingent.

“I can’t ever remember a get-together like this,” said younger brother Vontae, 17, who has signed to play football for the University of Illinois.

Davis’ family and friends arrived by train, bus and car. Even the travel-wary Adaline attended, taking the train from Union Station on Friday.

“But ‘Dukie’ tricked me,” Adaline said, referring to Davis by his childhood nickname. “He told me, ‘If you don’t go to New York, I won’t go either.’ He said he’d been working his whole life for this and he wanted me to be up here. But I don’t like to travel. I think he would have come without me.”

Davis’ draft status became muddled Friday night when Houston signed Mario Williams. San Francisco became a candidate to trade up and pick Reggie Bush, which meant Davis might have slipped. But Vontae said Vernon remained calm.

“He wasn’t really thinking about the trades, but he just wanted things to go right and work out for him the way he thought they should,” Vontae said. “He wasn’t nervous but he was anxious.”

Adaline Davis, who raised Vernon, took care of the nervous part.

“I was shaking all morning,” she said. “But I could have waited another two months if I had to.”

Vernon shouldn’t expect Adaline to make trips to San Francisco, though.

“I’ll tape the games,” she said. “That’s what I did with all his Maryland games. He would call me after the game and say, ‘You watched the tape yet?’ ”

Teams fell in love with Davis’ tapes from last season. He averaged 17.1 yards a catch, showing the ability to run over and past defensive backs and linebackers. Davis catapulted into the top 10 after he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the February Scouting Combine.

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