Growing up as he did in a tough Washington, D.C., neighborhood, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis had artistic interests and talents that were sidetracked by the pressures and prejudices of the inner city. Davis avoided art classes in high school, because he thought that his classmates would judge him.

“I figured that if I took up art classes, people would look at me differently,” Davis recently told Yahoo! Sports. “I wanted to be cool, and I didn’t know how to adapt at the time. It’s sad, but that’s just the way it was.”

He got his primary support in life from his grandmother, who raised Davis and his siblings. It wasn’t always easy, and Davis once played an entire high school football season in tennis shoes because he didn’t want to bother his grandmother about cleats. It was when he went to the University of Maryland that things started to come together for him in a football sense.

“My sophomore year in college, I started to show sparks,” Davis said. “Something was telling me that, hey, I’m about to go pro.”

But it was also at Maryland that Davis finally found a way to further his previously hidden interest in art. He changed his major from Criminal Justice to Art Studio, and he was on his way.
“I’ve always enjoyed the idea of being an artist,” he said.
Davis was selected by the 49ers with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, based in part on a ridiculous performance at the scouting combine. At 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, put up 33 reps in the 225-pound bench press, and hit a 42-inch vertical jump. Davis was one of the first of the new wave of athletic tight ends that has taken over the NFL in recent years.

Watch Vernon Paint here