When Dunbar tight end Vernon Davis was selected as a high school all-American this summer, he gave the certificate to Coach Craig Jefferies as an appreciation for his tutelage. But what the gesture also reflected is a character trait that Davis has carried throughout his four-year career with the Crimson Tide: a sense of humility and willingness to do just about anything to help his team win.
The versatile Davis is not only a threat to make a winning touchdown catch, but is equally dangerous to score on a tackle-breaking kickoff and punt return. If opposing defenses opt for double coverage against him, Davis is more than willing to sacrifice his massive frame to block for teammates.
"He's a humble and unselfish kid," said Jefferies, who will attempt to direct Dunbar to an unprecedented fifth straight Turkey Bowl title today. "He still doesn't know how good he is or how good he can be. He leads by example -- working harder than any other player on the team. He is probably the biggest big-time player that we have ever had."
One of Davis's best individual performances of the season came against Good Counsel on Sept. 7. In that game, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including the winning 16-yard pass from junior quarterback Stadford Brown with 1 minute 13 seconds remaining, as Dunbar prevailed, 27-21. Davis finished with 102 yards receiving.
Davis missed two games this season after suffering a high-ankle sprain but enters today's D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game with a 25.1 yards-per-catch average and five touchdown receptions. He also has scored on two punt returns (70 and 40 yards) and has returned two kickoffs 75 yards apiece for touchdowns.
Since his return from the injury, Davis has been spectacular. In a regular season finale against Wilson on Nov. 15, Davis caught touchdown passes of 87 and 55 yards as Dunbar won, 52-8, and extended its league-long winning streak to 39 games dating from 1999.
"This year has been challenging for me," Davis said. "It was frustrating with the injury . . . watching my teammates play without me. I really wanted to come back and contribute."
Yet it is Davis's strength as a blocker that has been crucial to the success of Dunbar's passing and running game. Davis has made huge holes for standout running backs Lavron Hines (1,005 yards) and Ashley Maynard (1,084) to run through, and has given Brown, a junior, enough time to pass for 1,675 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"I look forward to playing anywhere coach puts me," Davis said.
-- Judith Evans