49ers’ Davis to be honorary U.S. curling captain
SANTA CLARA – Vernon Davis is headed to his first Pro Bowl and his first Olympics, too.
The star San Francisco 49ers tight end will be an honorary captain for the U.S. men’s curling team next month at the Vancouver Olympics. The opportunity came about after Davis gave curling a try in November and loved it.
“I’m excited for the opportunity. It’s quite an honor,” Davis said Thursday. “I look forward to going to the Olympics and being an honorary captain. And I look forward to learning more and meeting those guys and finding out what their practice is like.”
Davis, who last Sunday tied Antonio Gates’ NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end with 13, shot several curling public service announcements this week at 49ers team headquarters and with the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club at the San Jose Sharks’ practice ice.
“I got a chance to really show my personality, and they let me do what I wanted at the end. I had a blast with it,” Davis said.
Those PSAs will be used at curling clubs around the country to help promote the sport’s growth.
Canada boasts about 1 million curlers, to only around 15,000 in the United States – mostly in the Midwest. The number of club curlers around the U.S. has grown significantly since the 2006 Turin Olympics, and the hope is there will be another boom after these Winter Olympics.
“We’re definitely honored to have someone of his talent stepping out of his normal space on the football field to help support the sport of curling,” Rick Patzke, USA Curling’s chief operating officer, said in a phone interview Thursday.
“Everything I’m reading, his talent on the field speaks for himself, but it’s inspiring to see what he’s doing outside of football, giving back in all the causes he’s supporting – including curling.”
The target dates for Davis to be in Vancouver are Feb. 19-21.
As part of his gig, Davis will meet the team and experience life in the Olympic Village, attend a match in Vancouver to support the Americans, get to enjoy a VIP curling experience at the Vancouver Curling Club and receive a one-day pass to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s USA House.
The 25-year-old Davis finished his fourth NFL season with career highs of 78 catches and 965 yards. He will start for the NFC team in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 31 in Miami – on his 26th birthday.
His Olympic experience will just be another highlight from a very special year for Davis. He’s insisted all along he only needed opportunities to become a big-time player.
“It’s been quite a run,” he said. “I’m not surprised. This is what I expected. Sometimes to get to a certain place, it takes time. That’s been my case. But at the same time I’m very happy about the opportunities.”
This is a first for the curling team to carry an honorary captain, though the curlers have partnered with the Green Bay Packers on projects in the past.
“It’s a great opportunity for the sport to have a Pro Bowl-type athlete interested in our sport,” U.S. coach Phill Drobnick said. “We’re really excited to interact with someone who has worked so hard to raise his level of play in his sport and become undoubtedly one of the best tight ends in the NFL. This is definitely something great for the sport of curling, and the team looks forward to seeing him in Vancouver.”
U.S. skip, or captain, John Shuster is headed back to the Olympics after capturing a bronze medal at the 2006 Turin Games – the first ever American medal in the sport and first in a major men’s competition since 1978.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Davis, known for his pure athleticism and speed, first took to the curling ice in early November and was a natural after receiving a short lesson.
All the curling folks hope Davis’ infectious personality comes through in the PSAs. Patzke praised the 49ers’ production crew for “donating their time and talents.”
“That was awesome. I’m looking forward to meeting him,” Patzke said. “When people see these athletes who they know are very good and know they’re athletic, it helps to overcome the image of curling not being an athletic sport. Having Vernon speak on behalf of curling also brings that legitimacy to the sport.”