Redskins tight end Vernon Davis is continuing his efforts to promote the sport of curling, heading to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics to support the American team.
The sport of curling is having a moment, at least in the NFL.
Perhaps in anticipation of this year's Winter Olympics, and thanks particularly to the NFL's relaxed set of rules allowing players to choreograph routines following touchdowns, one of the most unique celebrations from this past season involved an interpretation of the Olympic event.
During the regular season, Lions wide receiver Golden Tate pretended to throw a stone while teammates swept imaginary ice in front of the wobbling football. Then, in the NFC Championship game, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph celebrated the team's first and only touchdown of the game with a similar curling exhibition (and some questionable sweeping technique).
Last week, Minnesota native and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, in town for the Super Bowl, took ESPN host Trey Wingo on a trip to a curling club north of the city and tried his best crack on the ice in the hopes of becoming an Olympian. Even recording artist Diddy superimposed his face onto a curler's body for a recent Ciroc advertisement.
"I feel like the awareness is on another level," said Redskins tight end and curling enthusiast Vernon Davis, who left for PyeongChang, South Korea, on Wednesday and will follow the U.S. men's curling team there for a week. He'll be documenting his trip for Yahoo as he attends matches, provides curling demonstrations and explores the outskirts of the city.
The trip will wrap up the last month of promotion he's been doing for USA Curling and its partnership with Cheetos. Davis is featured in a music video advertisement with LaDainian Tomlinson and performing artist Todrick Hall called "Teach Me How To Curl," a spoof on Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How To Dougie," which Davis says he filmed during the season.
"I think the ultimate goal is to bring awareness to the sport of curling," Davis said. "And that's why Cheetos got involved, too. They got involved because they want to bring awareness and also because there's synergy, there's a lot of synergy there with the Cheeto curls and curling. It's cool…That's the whole reason why I started curling, too, to help bring more awareness to the sport. Not only bring more awareness to the sport, I also thought it was cool and I wanted to just be more involved and just work on my game."
Davis began curling in 2009, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, at the suggestion of AP Sports writer Jane McCAuley, who would soon be reporting on the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. The tight end would serve as USA Curling's honorary captain there and cheered on the team four years later in Sochi.
"It's one of those things, it's like golf, when you pick up on the game of golf and it's your first time playing, you either love it or hate it," Davis said. "So for me, when it comes to curling, I remember my first time out there, I was like 'Wow, this is pretty cool.'"
Since then, Davis has fallen more in love with the sport, continuing to play it several times a year at a nearby curling club in Laurel, Md. The more he's played and watched the sport, the more he's appreciated the strategy -- similar to playing shuffleboard -- behind it.
Davis has also noticed significant improvements in his execution on the ice, too, which takes a bit more athleticism than he first realized.
"When I first started I was falling, I couldn't stay in that lunge position, it was extremely hard," Davis said. "I'm strong enough to hold that position but I was a little off-balance when it came to throwing the stone and keeping that position. It was tough for me. So I've gotten better at that, I've gotten better at my control as far as letting the stone go. I don't want to put too much on it because you don't want to push it too hard and you don't want to push it too light, because if you do the stone won't get there effectively."
In the same way he has expanded arts education programming into the inner city with his Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts, he hopes he can spread the sport of curling throughout the Washington, D.C., area and make opportunities to try it more prevalent for African-American students.
"I think that would be cool," Davis said. "If we could get a curling rink somewhere in D.C., it'd be something different, when it comes to the game. You also get the African-American population more options, something that's more accessible to them, so they can be more constructive. A lot of kids aren't going to make it to the NFL or NBA, they might not make it in track, they might not make it in swimming, but then there's curling which is on another platform to do something they love to do."