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49ers

GameDay: Vernon Davis – The Candy Man Can

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Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers (CBS)

Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers (CBS)

Dennis-O'Donnell_BIO-HEAD Dennis O'Donnell
Dennis O’Donnell is the Sports Director at KPIX 5. He has receiv...
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CBS 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “Gameday” every Sunday night at 11:30pm on CBS 5 and offers his unique sports analysis here.

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Vernon Davis once bought a suit made of Godiva chocolate wrappers. No, really. Kim Coyle did a feature piece on the suit and I swear if Davis had a cane do go with that get-up he’d look like Willy Wonka on steroids. There was a time when Godiva seemed to fit Vernon, minus the G-O. But a funny thing happened on the way to the chocolate factory. And his name was Mike Singletary.

In a game against Seattle in 2008, Vernon slapped Seahawks safety Brian Russell and got slapped himself with a 15-yard penalty. Coach Mike Singletary not only took his prized tight end out of the game, he sent Vernon to locker room on live TV, right there for the entire world to see. Good thing he wasn’t wearing the Godiva, he’d of looked like one of those chocolate fountains.

It didn’t end there, of course. Singletary let go his infamous “I want winners” speech. Singletary became an instant star and Vernon was driving home listening to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” He didn’t like what he saw.

I first noticed Vernon’s change in the way he conducted interviews. Gone was the brash, cocky-sounding tight end that might have ended up authoring his own book, “Just give me the damn ball.” In his place was a person rededicating himself to the game and to the team. The game after his benching, he caught a touchdown pass from Shaun Hill.

Mike Singletary’s legacy in San Francisco is well-chronicled. But so is his impact on Vernon Davis. Where would Vernon be if not for that one moment? Singeltary’s greatest contribution might have been his quick, harsh discipline of his star tight end. Vernon rarely misses a chance to praise his former coach for the wake-up call.

This season Vernon caught 11 fewer passes and had 122 less receiving yards than 2010. He’s been asked about it several times by the media. A younger Davis would have called out the coach. Not this year. Not this Vernon. He’s embraced the team concept and the team has embraced him as a leader.

So how appropriate was it that Alex Smith threw the game-winning pass to Vernon Davis? It seemed like years of frustration, losing, and criticism were lifted from both players. Turns out, the Candy Man can after all.

Every now and then, I wonder what happened to that Godiva suit.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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