Former Maryland football star Vernon Davis wears his Terrapin pride on his sleeve. More than 15 years after he last caught a pass in a Maryland uniform, Davis is headed to the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame, along with nine other inductees, including basketball greats Greivis Vasquez and Kristi Toliver.
“It’s a great thing, man,” Davis told Testudo Times last week. “It’s pretty phenomenal to be able to be awarded for all the things I've been able to accomplish in my play on the field. It’s just awesome that they recognize me and they respect me in that way.”
Davis’ on-field accomplishments were remarkable in his three years at Maryland. He racked up 83 catches for 1,371 yards. In his final season as a Terp in 2005, Davis amassed 871 receiving yards, good for seventh in program history for single-season receiving yards.
The Maryland native led the team in receptions in back-to-back seasons in 2004 and 2005 and was named an AP All-American in 2005. The accolades and on-field production led to Davis’ No. 6 overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft. His success in college was a good indicator for the success he had in his 14-year NFL career, where he was an All-Pro, multi-time pro-bowler and Super Bowl champion. Davis credits that to his time at Maryland.
“I think the foundation of hard work is where [at Maryland] it was implemented,” Davis said. “I had to go through a lot of things to just understand myself and understand the process of becoming a pro. Because when I left high school and then when I got to Maryland, the level of competition, the level of expectation and everything in that sector, it went up, it was higher, so I had to put more on myself to get more out of myself.”
Davis picked up football for the first time in his sophomore year of high school and there was one college coach who quickly noticed the tight end’s potential in the early 2000s. That was then-Maryland assistant and current head coach Mike Locksley.
“He showed interest during my 10th grade year,” Davis said. “He was one of the first guys and it was love, it was all love. I really appreciated his efforts and his desire to want me to come play at the University of Maryland.”
Locksley left Maryland for Florida in 2003, so he did not get to coach Davis. However, they remain friends and talk frequently.
In fact, this week, Davis will address the Maryland football team to provide motivation and words of wisdom before the season kicks off.
Since he left College Park, Davis visits often and follows the team closely, especially since Locksley took over in 2018.
“He’s definitely a special individual,” Davis said about Locksley. “He’s one of those guys that you can always depend on. He loves football. He’s been around for quite some time, he’s seen a lot. So having him come in as the head coach was a no brainer for the University of Maryland. ... They’re growing, evolving slowly, as we can see, and I think the future’s bright as long as they continue to recruit well and hold guys accountable.”
Locksley is known for his ability to recruit and Davis saw that firsthand decades ago, so he certainly isn't surprised with the success Locksley has had recruiting in the last couple of cycles.
“You have to win guys over. You have to give guys a reason to want to play for you, to want to win for you and Mike has a lot of those qualities. His personality really stands out and that’s one thing I think everyone loves about Mike, they can relate to him and he can relate to them,” Davis said.
“He was part of a class that was probably one of the higher ranked classes that Maryland has had that I can remember. ... He was part of the forefather of the DMV movement of staying home,” Locksley said about recruiting Davis.
In the 2022 NFL Draft, Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo was drafted in the fourth round, the highest drafted tight end out of Maryland since Davis. Okonkwo and Davis haven't had too much communication, but Davis has followed from afar and sees a ton of potential in the Tennessee Titans rookie tight end, and said he’s excited to see what he does at the next level.
Maryland gave so much to Davis, and he’s always willing to give whatever he can right back. Whether it’s talking to the team or being accessible to various players over the years, Davis is a phone call away from his Terp family.
Davis’ induction is about his remarkable play on the field, but his time at Maryland is about much more than that. Davis retired from football in 2020 and has taken on various challenges in his post-playing career, including acting, reality TV and business ventures. Everything that has set him up for success beyond the turf reflects what he learned at Maryland.
“I think it goes back to discipline. At Maryland, I learned a lot of discipline, I learned the value of hard work,” Davis said. “My understanding of how I act and treat other people will go a long way throughout the rest of my life... That was the standard, that was the formula that was developing while I was at the University of Maryland.”
Now, Davis will be entrenched into Maryland lore forever with his induction on Oct. 7.