49ers pick Terps' Davis 6th

UM linebacker Jackson goes to Browns as second round's 2nd player

April 30, 2006|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG | KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG,SUN REPORTER

Vernon Davis will likely be remembered as one of strongest, toughest individuals to play football for the University of Maryland. But yesterday in New York, after hearing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue declare that the San Francisco 49ers had selected him with the sixth pick in the 2006 draft, Davis hung his head and wept.

They were not tears of disappointment or frustration, but of joy. Davis - who promised his grandmother, Adaline Davis, when he was growing up in Northwest Washington that he would stay out of trouble and make her proud - realized that he had finally arrived. The former Terrapins tight end continued to cry as he received congratulatory hugs from his family and friends, but he composed himself quickly as he made his way to the lectern, where he and Tagliabue shook hands and Davis held up a white San Francisco jersey.

"I was just overwhelmed and excited," Davis said. "It was surprising to hear my name called out on television at the NFL draft and being picked No. 6. It was just all exciting. "

Davis, who caught 51 balls for 871 yards and six touchdowns during his junior All-American season in College Park, was just the fifth tight end to be selected in the top 10 of the NFL draft since 1980. He became the highest Terrapin to be picked since defensive tackle Randy White went to the Dallas Cowboys with the second pick in the 1975 draft.

"We felt that not only did we get the best tight end in this draft, we got the best receiver in the draft as well," San Francisco coach Mike Nolan said. "I don't have anyone personally to compare him to. He's an incredible athlete. If you had his body, you'd throw yours away."

Davis wasn't the only Terrapin smiling yesterday. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who went higher than many experts predicted, was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the 34th overall selection, the second pick of the second round.

"I'm happy about D'Qwell; I'm elated for Vernon," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "I've got nothing but the best to wish for those guys. I just hope they go on to be very successful. I was kind of nervous about the whole thing, to be honest with you. I care for the kids. They work very hard for this day. I know it's very nervous [for] them."

Both players should get a chance to contribute right away. San Francisco drafted Davis with the hope that he can help speed up the learning curve for quarterback Alex Smith, who had a disappointing rookie year last season after he was taken first overall in the 2005 draft.

"I think Alex is great," Davis said. "He's young. It just took him some time to learn, but I think he is going to come a long way."

Jackson will try to help shore up a defense that ranked 30th in the NFL out of 32 teams in defending the run last year. The Browns, who play a 3-4 defense, have an inside linebacker spot open.

"This guy knows where the ball is," said Browns general manager Phil Savage, in an interview posted on the team's Web site. "He has the demeanor, the presence and the mentality to come in and challenge for it."

Davis' national exposure wasn't limited to the draft yesterday. He also had a major role in an Under Armour commercial that was played repeatedly during the draft telecast.

"I see myself making an instant impact," Davis said. "[Offensive coordinator] Norv Turner [called] me and said, `Are you ready to get your butt down here?' I said, `Yes.' "

Davis, when he signs, will likely receive a substantial signing bonus. Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who was taken with the sixth pick in the 2004 draft, signed a six-year deal worth $29 million and got a $16.5 million signing bonus. Davis doesn't think San Francisco's scheme will be all that different from the pro-style offense he ran at Maryland.

"The passing scheme is very similar to the one we had at Maryland. It seems like I'm familiar with everything," Davis said.

"I've been dreaming of going to San Francisco. It's a beautiful place, and it's a great organization."

kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Heather A. Dinich and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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