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Redskins’ Vernon Davis lands his ‘biggest role’ yet in Western thriller ‘Hell on the Border’

Vernon Davis on the set of “Hell on the Border.” (Courtesy of Vernon Davis) (Hell on the Border)

Vernon Davis typically takes about a month off after every season before resuming his training four or five days a week. This year, the Redskins tight end used part of his time away from football to continue his growth as an actor.

Davis, who made a cameo in the 2017 movie “Baywatch” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, spent four days in Birmingham, Ala., this week for the filming of director Wes Miller’s “Hell on the Border.” The Western thriller, which stars Frank Grillo, Ron Perlman, Zahn McClarnon and David Gyasi, is based on the true story of Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. Davis plays the part of Columbus Johnson, a former slave who, along with his partner Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, helps blacks in the South seek refuge in Kansas after the Civil War. At one point during the story, Johnson and Singleton cross paths with Reeves, who is played by Gyasi. The movie will be released later this year.

“It’s for sure my biggest role,” said Davis, a D.C. native and former Maryland star who has also made cameos in TV shows such as “The League” and “Inside Amy Schumer.” “I did my own stunt in the movie. The production is just so amazing, and I didn’t want to leave.”

Redskins tight end and aspiring actor Vernon Davis was in Birmingham, Ala., in January for shooting of the movie “Hell on the Border.” (Video: Courtesy of “Hell on the Border”)

Davis, who turned 35 on Thursday, has expressed interest in pursing a second career in acting when his playing days are over. Actor and manager Henry Penzi, a longtime associate of Mark Wahlberg who also works with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, has helped Davis navigate the world of Hollywood and scope out potential roles since a mutual friend recently introduced them. In March, Davis plans to head to Los Angeles to train with an acting coach.

“I’ve got to get prepared for the next big role that’s coming my way,” Davis said. “ . . . I’m going to try to do one more movie before the season starts. I’ve got an action film that I could possibly be in, just trying to figure out the timing and things.”

In addition to the excitement of being involved in a chase scene that required about a half-dozen takes, Davis said his time on set in Birmingham was educational.

“Ron Perlman said something interesting that put things in perspective this week,” Davis said. “He said, ‘I’m not an actor, I’m a reactor.’ That’s like the Meisner technique that I’ve been studying. How do you react to this person? Really you’re not acting, you’re just being yourself, and reacting to a person.”

Davis also compared acting to football.

“You don’t even think, you’re just out there,” said Davis, who is under contract with the Redskins through the 2019 season. “You can’t wait to get out there and make that big play. That’s how it was when I was on set. Whenever I was done with a scene, I’d go back to my trailer, relax and go over my lines. I’d think, ‘I can’t wait to get out there.’”

As the Redskins’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Award, Davis will be at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Saturday for the NFL Honors ceremony. Davis wasn’t sure if he would stick around for the Super Bowl, but he predicted the Los Angeles Rams would come out on top.

“They have such good energy going on,” Davis said. “They’re having fun, they’re into it. Defensively, their front line is probably the best front line I’ve seen in a long time. That’s going to be the challenge for the New England Patriots, protecting Tom [Brady].”

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