There’s been a change in the sports pecking order around here, for those who haven’t noticed. “DC was a basketball town,” says Vernon Davis “It’s a football town now.”
You gonna argue with him?
Davis, a 6’3″, 253-pound former University of Maryland star and now tight end with the San Francisco 49ers, has done his share to speed the city’s transition away from hoop-centricity and toward the gridiron.
He and his little brother Vontae, a University of Illinois defensive back and recent first round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2009 NFL draft, grew up on Emerson Street in Petworth, and can now make a claim on being the best sibling athletes ever to come out of DC. Vernon, 25, and Vontae, 21, are only the third pair of brothers, behind the Mannings and the McDougles, ever to be chosen in the first round in NFL.
The Davises were back in their hometown over the weekend to run a free youth football clinic at their shared alma mater, Dunbar Senior High School.
“With the success of the guys coming out of DC, me being a high draft pick and then my brother being a number one pick, that’s brought a lot of attention to the football here, to the talent and people all over respect that now,” says Vernon. “I’m excited what DC has done with football, what’s happening here now.”
The athletic facilities here have never lived up to the talent level, both brothers told me. Vernon says he wasn’t even the best athlete in his neighborhood growing up. But for reasons that by now just sound cliche, we’ll never hear about the kids who had better tools. “Guys went in a different direction than I did, to the streets,” he says.
Things have improved quite a bit in recent years around Petworth and on the city’s football scene, however. The field at Dunbar has gone from dirt to artificial turf, the bubbled and worn out track surrounding the gridiron has been replaced, and the locker rooms and training facilities have been upgraded since the Davises toiled for the Crimson Tide.
But they’re not complaining about the lot they were dealt.”I was just talking about this with my brother, remembering the locker rooms, and how small the [Dunbar] workout room used to be,” says Vernon. “But we were talking about how much we got done in those little spaces. We worked so hard, and we had the the coaches behind us. So it’s not about the size of the room, it’s about the work you put in, and the people, and we had incredible support from the people here.”
“But I tell the guys there now: it’s a blessing they have the facilities that we didn’t have,” adds Vontae. “Things were a lot rougher when we were here. The locker rooms, the field, all of it. But if we had the fields they’ve got, we probably would have been even faster than we were.”
The Davises admit that their profession will keep them away from DC except for an occasional fall Sunday.
“I love DC,” Vontae says. “But I’m moving to Miami to live. You can’t beat that.”