The 2017 NFL season marked the return of joy and creativity to end zones throughout the league, whose relaxed prohibitions against fun once again permitted players to celebrate touchdowns with choreographed routines and to use the sacred pigskin as a prop without penalty. One of the more amusing routines came in September, when a group of players celebrated a score with a nod to the Olympic sport of curling. Surprisingly, Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis wasn’t involved.
“I’m going to have to get in the end zone and do it again,” Davis said in October, when he first learned that Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate pretended to throw a stone while teammates mimicked sweeping after a touchdown. “I’ll have them stand right there. One can be the sweeper. We’ll set it up. I’ll have to explain it to them.”
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Davis, a curling enthusiast, had dropped by The Washington Post to discuss his love of curling and involvement in USA Curling’s partnership with Cheetos for the upcoming Winter Games in PyeongChang. The 33-year-old D.C. native and former Maryland star would get in the end zone only twice more in 2017, first in the Redskins’ blowout loss against the Los Angeles Chargers and then in the home finale against the Denver Broncos. Davis simply handed the ball to the referee after scoring in Los Angeles and celebrated the latter touchdown with a mock free throw, which earned him a $12,154 fine the year before, so his own curling-inspired end zone routine will have to wait until next season.
In the meantime, Davis is helping bring attention to USA Curling ahead of next month’s Olympics. He’s featured in a music video released this week titled “Teach Me How To Curl” with Pro Football Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and performer Todrick Hall. (The song is a riff on Cali Swag District’s 2010 hit “Teach Me How To Dougie,” one of Colin Cowherd’s favorite tracks.)
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Davis said he would like to help do for the sport of curling what he has done for the arts community in D.C. through the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts.
“Growing up in Washington, D.C., I couldn’t pursue the arts because I was afraid of people criticizing me,” Davis said. “I find that really prevalent among professional athletes nowadays. Because every artist, whether he’s a singer or plays an instrument, you don’t know. No one on the team really knows this guy is an artist unless he talks about it. Especially African Americans don’t know about curling unless you bring awareness to it.”
Davis’s introduction to curling came in 2009, when Bay Area-based reporter Janie McCauley suggested the then-San Francisco 49ers tight end give it a try for a story she was writing ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Davis spent nearly two hours learning the sport at a curling center in San Jose.
“I just have an open mind,” Davis said. “I try not to shy away from things until I try it. I feel like athletes in general, especially football and basketball players in particular, would love the sport if they knew more about it. It’s all strategy-based. You come up with a good strategy to execute, and once you find a good strategy, you can mediate on that and visualize what happens, and it makes it fun, just like shuffleboard.”
Davis, who has his own curling shoes and broom and estimates he has been curling about 25 times, was USA Curling’s honorary captain at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and traveled to Sochi in 2014 to cheer on the team. He said he hopes to be in PyeongChang.
“It’s one of those things like golf,” he said. “You get out when you can, and unless you put a lot of time into it, you can’t become great at it. And then finding an ice rink that supports curling, there aren’t too many curling clubs. I’ve been to a curling club in Denver, in San Francisco. Pretty much in every city that I’ve played in, I’ve been to their curling club.”
Davis said he has never taken a teammate curling, but if he were selecting three players to fill out his own four-man team from the Redskins’ roster, he’d look to his fellow tight ends.
“When we compete during the offseason, we’ll push the sleds and we’ll compete,” Davis said. “Usually [the tight ends] will win everything, so I’m going with my group, man. I’m picking Niles Paul, Jordan Reed and maybe [Jeremy] Sprinkle. That’s my group right there. I think I’d want to be the lead. He throws the first stone. I kind of like to get a feel and set everything up. I can see it before it happens.”