By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Vernon Davis already had demonstrated to NFL scouts that he was big, fast and strong. The tight end felt no need to prove that all over again, so he spent most of the University of Maryland's pro day yesterday afternoon standing around idly while some of his former Terrapins teammates attempted to impress the representatives of the 25 teams on hand to measure and weigh the players and watch them perform 40-yard dashes, strength tests and quickness, agility and leaping drills.
But then the proceedings moved to a practice field on the Maryland campus, and Davis gave the NFL talent evaluators one last thing to add to their scouting reports based on first-hand observations: He actually can play football, too.
Davis, after declining to participate in the earlier activities, took part in the pass-receiving drills at the end of the afternoon and showed once more that he is one of the top prospects available in the draft in April. He caught every throw to come his way on a chilly and windy day. He looked swift and explosive, and he walked off the field confident that he had done all he could to reinforce the notion that he should be among the draft's first 10 or so selections.
"I feel good," Davis said shortly after his drills. "I got this out of the way. It feels great coming off the field knowing you did a great job. . . . I just came out here and did what they asked me to do. I can't have these guys come all the way out here and not do anything."
Davis was projected as a first-round pick when he decided to bypass his senior season at Maryland and enter the draft. His draft stock soared when he gave a dazzling performance at the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis. He set what was believed to be a combine record for a tight end by running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. He lifted a 225-pound weight bar an impressive 33 times in the strength test, and performed a 42-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot 8-inch broad jump.
So there was little or nothing left for Davis to show scouts when it came to feats of raw athleticism. He stood around and cheered for his former teammates while they did their weightlifting at the Gossett Team House next to one end zone at Byrd Stadium. He looked on while they ran sprints and did drills on an artificial turf laid inside Cole Field House. But he didn't want his entire day to be spent resting on his laurels from the combine.
"I didn't have to come here today and do anything else because I did everything I wanted to do at the combine," said Davis, a District native who attended Dunbar High. "But I just wanted to come here and do something because I'm so excited. I figure everything I do can affect what happens in the draft."
Terrapins Coach Ralph Friedgen showed up to watch the proceedings and said he has told Davis and his other draft-eligible players to keep their expectations in check.
"I always tell them I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed," he said.
Friedgen said he had no problem with Davis's decision to leave school early once he was told by the NFL's draft advisory board that he was projected to be a first-round pick.
"I'm hoping and praying for the best," said Friedgen, who indicated that he contacted six NFL general managers on Davis's behalf during the decision-making process. "I really want the best for Vernon. But I know anything can happen on that day. . . . You're like a parent. This is your child. He tested very well at the combine. He's a great kid. He's just going to do some of the drills, and everyone will see what kind of talent he has."
Davis said he hopes he's among the draft headliners invited to New York for the proceedings. If not, he likely will watch on television from his grandmother's home in Washington. His immediate plan is to return to the training facility in Arizona where he has been working out, and the next step in the pre-draft process will be a round of interviews with teams in their home cities. But mostly, it's all about waiting now.
"I'm just ready to get going," Davis said. "I feel like I've done all that I can."