Vernon Davis signed a one-year, $2.4 million contract with the Washington Redskins in March, a welcoming return home for the 32-year-old tight end who attended Dunbar High School and played at Maryland.
In nine full seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Davis caught 423 passes for 5,446 yards and 55 touchdowns. He was traded to the Super Bowl-champion Denver Broncos last November, in the middle of his 10th season, and never quite latched onto the offense. He finished without a touchdown for the first time in his career and caught a total of 38 passes for 395 yards.
Davis, who was at Nationals Park on Friday to promote Krave Jerky, spoke with The Washington Times about his fresh start, what he expects this season with the Redskins and the value of enhancing his life off the football field.
Question: You have a lot of unique endeavors off the field. While playing for the 49ers, you opened Gallery 85 in San Jose, an extension of The Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts, which provides scholarships to college art students. How important is it for you to do things like that off the field?
Answer: I recently read an article how most athletes, they get into so many different issues and problems where they create this dilemma for themselves they can’t get out of. The reason why is they’re not using their talent wisely. I used to be one of those athletes and what I’ve started to do is put myself around like-minded people. — started to do more, read more, just become more inquisitive and wanted to know and also learn something. What you don’t know will hurt you, what you know will help you, right? So, that’s when I started to become more. It wasn’t just about going out, finding some nightlife to indulge in, meeting a different woman or something like that. I just found better, more positive things to do with my time.
Q: After 10 seasons in San Francisco and Denver, you’re returning home. What’s that been like?
A: It’s been good. It didn’t transpire the way I thought it would, I thought it would be different and it’s a good thing. I thought I’d come home, everyone would be pulling me in different directions, they’d have access to me. I’m 45, 50 minutes away from D.C. I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done, which is take care of my body, focus on football and do the things I need to do for my kids, my family and my career. No one has been in my way. Naturally, I’m doing these things and it’s all starting to make sense, like I’m back in San Francisco. Just doing the things I’ve always done.
Q: Do you still have family in Washington?
A: A lot of my family is still here. As a man and as a sports figure, you have to set limits and set boundaries on what can and cannot happen. Once you do that, your family will start to respect you. ‘OK, I get it, he’s all about football and handling his business,’ and that’s what I’ve done. In the past, when I was a young man — a younger man — it was hard for me to say no. Since I’m older, wiser, I know how to handle people, know how to say no, know when something is right and something wrong. I use proper judgment.
Q: You recently visited the White House to celebrate the Broncos’ Super Bowl win. Have you ever visited before? What was unique about the experience?
A: I’d never been. Seen pictures, just being D.C. born and raised, been around it, the energy. It was great. I wish it was with the Washington Redskins. That’s done. I don’t like to dwell in the past. We won the Super Bowl, it’s over, it’s done. We celebrated, there’s no need to keep celebrating. Now it’s time to move on. If you’re still playing the game, you should think about getting another one with whoever you’re with. I didn’t go to the ring ceremony because it’s in the past. I’m elated, totally appreciative of it all, but it’s time for me to move ahead and try to get another one.
Q: What kind of impact do you think you’ll have with the Redskins?
A: I see my impact, myself doing whatever they ask me to do and playing at a very high level. Play full speed, play fast and not think too much about anything. Try to keep my focus, play this game.
Q: You’re 32 years old and entering your 11th season. How does your body feel?
A: I feel like I just got in the league. I’m fast, can still run. I still have all the tools that I feel like I need to be equipped with. I just feel great.
Q: Last year you were traded mid-season and were not able to latch on with the Broncos’ offense. Why was it so challenging for you?
A: I didn’t have much time to learn the playbook, didn’t build that camaraderie with my teammates I wanted to build. It was just tough all around.
Q: What’s been the most exciting part of your journey back to Washington?
A: Just starting fresh with a team I know I’ll be playing with. That’s the most important thing.
Q: Athletes can endorse a wide variety of products. Why Krave Jerky?
A: Other than creating a brand for themselves and an awesome product, they’re doing a lot of philanthropy work, giving away bags of jerky, feeding people. They’ve been tremendous. Before I was introduced to the product by my agent and left it sitting there, [I] thought it was just like any other jerky. Tried it, thought, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’ I wanted to move forward with these guys, create an endorsement opportunity, so I created an endorsement opportunity and for me it’s not about the money, it’s more about their mission, why they started, the drive and ambition they had. To watch it go from something so small to something so big, it’s great to be around that energy.