With free agency talk running rampant, and now new moves to report, for now, let’s hop in the DeLorean, gun it to 88 and pay homage to a current member of the red and gold.
The year is 2008. Mike Singletary has just taken over for the recently fired Mike Nolan, and the San Francisco 49ers are a mess. They entered their Week 8 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks 2-5 and are currently floundering through another disappointing home effort. In the 3rd quarter, after a seven-yard reception and ensuing trash talk, Vernon Davis slaps Seattle safety Brian Russell, resulting in a 15-yard penalty. Davis is summarily removed from the game by Singletary and sent to the locker room. After the game, the Niners new coach defends the ejection in the now infamous “I want winners” rant.
Up to that point in his career, Vernon had not been a winner. Despite being drafted 6th overall in 2006, Davis had been a disappointment his first few years in the league. His mind blowing combine numbers, including running a mind-blowing 4.38 40, weren’t translating on the field as he struggled catching the ball and dealt with injuries that hampered his progress.
However, that ejection proved to be a turning point in his career. The following season, Davis had an offensive renaissance. 2009 produced his first Pro Bowl selection, where he racked up 78 catches for 965 yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns. His performance immediately made him a 49er Faithful favorite and netted him a 5-year, $37 million extension. More importantly, Davis matured into a team captain and leader.
The Singletary ejection allowed Vernon to channel his emotions and he hasn’t looked back. Davis continued to improve and develop into one of the best tight ends and most dangerous receiving targets in the NFL. In the 2012 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, he pulled in the biggest catch of his career, affectionately known as “The Catch III.” Last season, Davis equaled his career high in touchdown catches to go along with 52 grabs for 850 yards and his second Pro Bowl selection.
On a personal note, Vernon has become my favorite player since the 2009 season. His growth in terms of maturity and his leadership on the field is an inspiration to the 49ers, and myself. When his career is all said and done, he may go down as the greatest tight end in San Francisco 49ers history (sorry Brent Jones). There is no one I respect more on the team than Davis; the heart of the 49ers.
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