SANTA CLARA Vernon Davis wants to be noticed. He soooo wants to be noticed. After five seasons without a postseason appearance, the 49ers tight end can't wait to flex those massive biceps, account for a few memorable receptions, and maybe even block a few of the New Orleans Saints into the heavens.
On television. With a nationwide audience watching. In the first playoff game of his career.
"You don't get everything you want when you want it," the engaging Davis said after practice the other day. "You learn patience. You learn to work hard during the tough times."
What does he want now? Besides a victory that propels the 49ers into the NFC Championship Game? He doesn't want to appear greedy, but he wants a lot. He wants everything. He wants to be bigger than life. He wants to make great art and continue making movies. He also wants to retire as one of the best tight ends in NFL history, and he understands that to accomplish this loftiest of goals, two things have to happen: The 49ers have to remain playoff-relevant for the duration of his career and his pass-catching skills have to catch up to the rest of his body of work.
Davis is a load to bring down in the open field, but in a run-oriented offense that often utilizes two tight ends, he is better known for his speed (he runs a 4.3 40) and his exceptional blocking.
"I think blocking is something that gets overlooked," he said, with a touch of defiance. "If you're a true tight end, you got to block. I love it because you get to dominate. But most (tight ends) just catch passes."
Davis, who caught 67 passes for 792 yards and five touchdowns while adapting to yet another offensive system, is quick to suggest his imposing combination of size, speed and strength gives him an edge in pass protection and the run game. At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, this is a smaller, similarly muscled version of Dwight Howard. Or, envision a Michelangelo sculpture in football gear.
Davis' biceps alone of which he is enormously proud threaten to overcrowd his tight corner of the locker room. As he chatted with a handful of media onlookers, he tapped his upper arms and flexed, first deliberately and then almost subconsciously while chatting about a variety of topics.
"My arms have been like this since college," said the 2006 first-round pick out of Maryland. "Lots of weights. I get down to 245 pounds during the season, so I (keep the bulk), and don't lose any speed."
But about those hands that don't exactly bring Velcro to mind Davis still occasionally drops catchable passes and that booming personality. And what is it about these tight ends, anyway? Davis, who patterned his game after the witty Shannon Sharpe, fancies himself a Renaissance man much like Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow.
The former San Diego Chargers star, a pass-catching artist who was named the greatest tight end of the Super Bowl era by USA Today, eclipsing Sharpe, Ozzie Newsome, John Mackey and Tony Gonzalez among others, referred to himself as a "chess nerd" and listed "Love Story" as his favorite movie.
Once, when asked to explain his soft hands, Winslow told me, in total deadpan, "In my house, if you ate, you washed dishes." Winslow, of course, had to share his opportunities with teammates Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, Wes Chandler and Chuck Muncie. But he also had a prolific quarterback in Dan Fouts and a head coach (Don Coryell) who ran a West Coast offense when the system was otherwise known as "Air Coryell."
Davis tends to get the 49ers' leftovers, a notion that troubled him enormously earlier in his career. These days, he says, not so much.
"We're 13-3," he said. "We're winning, and that's not by accident. I see what's going on. It's about a bigger picture. And I'm still getting better, as far as being a receiver. Some of the passes I can catch now, I didn't catch when I was young. Now it's about improving and developing the technique. I'm just here to help, no matter how they use me. All we want to do is take it up a notch."