An embarrassing moment turned Vernon Davis into one of better football players ever from the District.
The former All-American from Dunbar High will play in Sunday's Super Bowl XLVII. The San Francisco 49ers tight end is so fast and so strong that reaching the sport's showcase isn't surprising.
But it was almost too easy for Davis throughout high school and college. His biggest struggle at Maryland was the daily blocking drills against defensive end Shawne Merriman, who left for the NFL a year earlier than Davis as a first-rounder. Getting the Terrapins to throw more to him also was a challenge in a run-first scheme, but Davis managed 51 catches in 2005 as an All-American.
Drafted sixth overall by San Francisco in 2006, Davis was injured in each of his first two years. However, the biggest blow came in 2008, when he was sent to the locker room during a game by coach Mike Singletary for selfish behavior. "I want winners," Singletary screamed during the postgame news conference.
It was an ugly moment that could have destroyed his career. Instead, Davis changed his attitude and set an NFL single-reason record by a tight end with 13 touchdowns the following year.
"I once read something that said, 'In order to be great, you have to be a servant. You have to be a slave,'?" he said. "It's a way of saying that you have to be humble, and that's something that I've learned here.
"The difference between me now and when I first came in was that it was all about me. I came in with the attitude to catch balls and get statistics and things like that. I didn't care about the team. I was about Vernon always, but now I could care less about catching balls and getting statistics because I understand that the team is much bigger."
That new attitude helped Davis when the team switched to quarterback Colin Kaepernick after midseason. Davis was no longer the featured target alongside Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, but unlike earlier years, he was fine with it.
"One week it can be me. Next week it can be Crabtree. It can be Frank Gore," Davis said. "We're here, so how could you complain about it?"
Davis grew up a Washington Redskins fan but likes facing the nearby Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl. Maybe it's bittersweet considering a 49ers victory would mean beating a Ravens team that many of his former Maryland teammates prefer, but Davis likes the chance for Washingtonians to see him play in a big game.
Turning 29 on Thursday, Davis is nearing the time when tight ends quickly fade. His legacy is important, Davis said.
"I want people to remember that I was a man of God, I was a leader and that I was dedicated to this game," he said. "I also want them to remember that I gave this game everything that I had as a tight end. I gave it everything. I gave it my all."