DC native, Terp alum and NFL great Vernon Davis drops rap album ‘Showtime’

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley covers Vernon Davis' new rap album (Part 1)

He’s a D.C. native and Maryland Terrapin alum who ended his football career with the burgundy and gold.

Now, NFL great Vernon Davis is releasing his debut rap album “Showtime” under the stage name Vern, in collaboration with fellow D.C. native and multiplatinum music producer Tone P for District Funk Records.

“I reached out to a friend of mine asking about music and he was like, ‘I’ve got a buddy named Tone P you should work with, he’s interested in working with you,’ so I was like, ‘Yeah, patch us through,'” Davis told WTOP. “I didn’t know too much about music, all I knew is that I could write poetry. I was very intrigued with the world of writing and rapping, so I reached out to Tone, he came in and we developed a song together called ‘Bounce Like Dis.'”

The music video for “Bounce Like Dis” was filmed at FedEx Field. He admits that his former teammates were surprised to see this side of him, from the trap rap of “Phone” to the filtered vocals of “How I Play It.”

“They never really expected to see me in this light, but life is about the unexpected,” Davis said. “You have to continue to keep going, move forward and do the things that you enjoy doing. Depending on the pace of the song, when I was in the studio and I went to the mic, Tone was like, ‘Hey, switch it up, try this. Yeah, yeah, I like that, deeper, deeper,’ so depending on the instrumentals behind the voice, it could sound better this way or that way.”

Born in the District in 1984, Davis grew up listening to 2Pac and Jay-Z before attending Dunbar High School where he was named Gatorade Player of the Year for D.C. and ranked the No. 4 tight end in the nation by Rivals.com.

“When I look back, I think about the game where we were playing at home, it might have been Ballou Senior High School we were playing, and I didn’t have my mouthpiece in,” Davis said. “All I remember is returning a punt and I was running up the middle of the field and at the same time I was putting my mouthpiece in.”

For college, Davis chose to stay local and attend the University of Maryland in College Park where he was recruited by respected head coach Ralph Friedgen, who had just been to Orange Bowl in 2001 and Peach Bowl in 2002. Davis’ first season saw the Terps win the Gator Bowl in 2003, launching a stellar college career with “lights out” teammates like Shawn Merriman, Madieu Williams, Dominque Foxworth and D’Quell Jackson.

“My most memorable game was the game that I played against Duke,” Davis said. “My nickname is Duke, I grew up as Little Duke, my dad was always Big Duke, but I ended up scoring three touchdowns in that game and all I remember is the commentator and articles coming out: ‘Duke scores three against Duke,’ so it was pretty cool. Growing up, I actually was in love with basketball and Duke was my favorite school.”

Ironically, he would end up attending one of Duke’s rival ACC schools in Maryland, at that time led by basketball coach Gary Williams, who had just won the NCAA national championship in 2002. After initially intending to study criminal justice, Davis eventually transitioned into becoming a studio art major.

“A few of my teammates were coming in, they were art studio majors, and I found myself gazing at the artwork laying on the table at study hall [thinking], ‘I would really like to try some of these classes. This art looks amazing,’ Davis said. “When I think back, I should have been doing it in high school, but I couldn’t really pursue the arts because I didn’t feel like it was cool in that environment. I didn’t know I could draw, I didn’t know I could paint.”

In 2006, he was drafted sixth overall by the San Francisco 49ers and, wouldn’t you know it, his first reception was a touchdown from quarterback Alex Smith in Week 1. In 2009, Davis tied Antonio Gates’ record for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season with 13, later broken by Rob Gronkowski with 18 in 2011.

Davis is best remembered for his performance in the 2011-2012 NFC Divisional Round playoff game against the New Orleans Saints where he broke Kellen Winslow’s single-game playoff record for receiving yards. It culminated in a game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left, a moment that has since been dubbed “The Catch: Part 3″ after Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in 1982 and Steve Young to Terrell Owens in 1998.

“Yep, The Catch III, I remember it vividly,” Davis said. “It just felt amazing at the time and it still feels amazing to be in that circle of elite athletes when it comes to making plays. As a kid, you always dream of making that game-winning shot, and to me, that was a game-winning shot when I scored with a few seconds left on the clock. It’s a great feeling and something that I continue to hold onto as I move on throughout my life.”

In the 2012-2013 season, the same year that Robert Griffin III blew his knee out in the playoffs for Washington, Davis was busy catching passes from Colin Kaepernick en route to the Super Bowl where his team came up short against the Baltimore Ravens. Fans will remember it as the game where Beyoncé’s electrifying halftime show blew out the power in the stadium, arguably shifting the momentum to the Ravens.

“We had some momentum going and then all of a sudden the Ravens just started [beating us], yeah, it was awful for us,” Davis said. “We came back with a vengeance and were able to keep pounding away and we put ourselves back in the game [before ultimately losing].”

In the 2016-2017 season, Davis finally won a Super Bowl when he was traded to the Denver Broncos to catch passes from Peyton Manning, defeating the Carolina Panthers as Von Miller sacked Cam Newton to seal the deal.

“It was very rewarding,” Davis said. “The team that you started out with, that you put in all the years with is that team that you want to win a Super Bowl with, but unfortunately it doesn’t always unfold that way. It’s not about how you win a Super Bowl, it’s more about the work that you put in throughout the years, surrounding yourself with great, talented players and having something so miraculous and amazing unfold in winning a Super Bowl.”

Davis spent the final four seasons of his career here in Washington, leading a strong offense with him and Jordan Reed at tight end, Pierre Garçon as a tough receiver over the middle and DeSean Jackson as a deep threat.

“We had a talented roster, but it’s not all about [that],” Davis said. “It’s like a bike, all of the pieces have to work together. It has to be a concerted effort, meaning the upper management to the coaches to the players to the training staff, everyone has to be on the same page to be a championship team. … Late in my career with Washington, I started writing poetry when I was bored in meetings. That’s when I found my passion for rapping.”

As his playing career was winding down, Davis also began pivoting into entertainment, appearing on The CW’s “Whose Line is it Anyway,” MTV’s “The Challenge,” ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and Fox’s “Domino Masters.” This year, he even has a new movie out called “The Ritual Killer” (2023), a thriller co-starring Morgan Freeman.

“A character I play named Randoku is making this concoction called Muti where he sells it to people who want to feel powerful,” Davis said. “This concoction he mixes with gold, clay, herbs and body parts. … Morgan Freeman plays the college professor and Cole Hauser plays the detective. You can find it on Amazon and Apple TV.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley covers Vernon Davis' new rap album (Part 2)

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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