Former 49ers TE Vernon Davis on his Relationship with Mike Singletary

"I had to understand that there's a time and place for everything, and fighting in the middle of a game is not the time or place."
Nov. 16, 2008; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) heads to the locker room before the start of the game against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov. 16, 2008; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) heads to the locker room before the start of the game against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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Vernon Davis is one of the sweetest football players I've ever covered.

But when he was young, he was angry, and he took out his anger on the football field. And when he did that, he hurt his team. That's why in 2008 when Davis committed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, head coach Mike Singletary threw him out of the game.

I recently asked Davis what that moment meant for his growth as a player and as a man. Here's what Davis said.

ME: "It felt like in that moment Mike Singletary was a bit of a father figure in the sense that he was telling you, 'You don't have to fight back on your own. We're a team. We'll do it together. If someone disrespects you, we're a team, come back to the huddle.' Does that resonate with you?

DAVIS: "That does resonate. You're growing up and your leader is someone older than you, someone you look up to. If you're brought up in a certain environment, most likely you're going to become part of that environment. If I have guys telling me to stand up for myself, be tough, fight back, that's probably going to follow me the rest of my life. So now you have this guy, Coach Singletary, who's telling me, 'You don't have to fight this battle alone. If you get into a fight, you have other people who are here with you and for you. But at the same time, make sure you put these guys first. It's never about you, the individual, it's more about the team. I had to realize that. I also had to understand that there's a time and place for everything, and fighting in the middle of a game is not the time or place. You have to be wise and know the situation."

ME: "Your whole childhood, you were told if you want to be tough, you have to fight that fight alone. And then you have the toughest linebacker ever saying, 'No, we're a team.' What's your relationship like with Singletary now?

DAVIS: "We have a great relationship. His family is like my family. When you play football, you're there to create family and cultivate relationships that last a lifetime."

Davis's memoir, Playing Ball, comes out Aug. 20.


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Grant Cohn

GRANT COHN

Grant Cohn has covered the San Francisco 49ers daily since 2011. He spent the first nine years of his career with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat where he wrote the Inside the 49ers blog and covered famous coaches and athletes such as Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick and Patrick Willis. In 2012, Inside the 49ers won Sports Blog of the Year from the Peninsula Press Club. In 2020, Cohn joined FanNation and began writing All49ers. In addition, he created a YouTube channel which has become the go-to place on YouTube to consume 49ers content. Cohn's channel typically generates roughly 3.5 million viewers per month, while the 49ers' official YouTube channel generates roughly 1.5 million viewers per month. Cohn live streams almost every day and posts videos hourly during the football season. Cohn is committed to asking the questions that 49ers fans want answered, and providing the most honest and interactive coverage in the country. His loyalty is to the reader and the viewer, not the team or any player or coach. Cohn is a new-age multimedia journalist with an old-school mentality, because his father is Lowell Cohn, the legendary sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle from 1979 to 1993. The two have a live podcast every Tuesday. Grant Cohn grew up in Oakland and studied English Literature at UCLA from 2006 to 2010. He currently lives in Oakland with his wife.