Standing in front of a sea of students at the Truesdell Education Campus on Tuesday afternoon, Vernon Davis reflected on his journey through the District of Columbia Public School system and into the public eye; first as an University of Maryland football standout and then as a NFL tight end.
He vividly remembers attending this very elementary school, when he dreamed about becoming a professional athlete. It's also when he learned from his grandma, Adaline -- who raised Davis and his two brothers -- that achieving his aspirations would not come easy. She pushed him to work hard, and not just in sports. Davis cherished his grandma's advice.
"I knew that the only way to get there is by paying attention, doing my very best on the field and doing well in class," Davis said. "My grandmother did not tolerate anything less than that."
Adaline was on stage with Davis on Tuesday as he received one of his biggest honors from District Mayor Muriel Bowser. For his role as a "philanthropist, artist, entrepreneur and role model for youth in Washington D.C.," Bowser issued a proclamation declaring March 12 as "Vernon Davis Day."
"I was excited for Vernon because I know he's a hard-working young man," Adaline Davis told Redskins.com after the ceremony, which included about a dozen speakers and a the unveiling of a mural made to honor Davis. "He's been working so hard, so I like to see him achieve what he's worked for."
Davis added: "Wow, it means that all of the hard work that I put in from a philanthropic standpoint to playing football on Sundays is all coming together and being recognized for it."
Simply put, Davis has achieved a lot, as Bowser and a host of other speakers attested to throughout the afternoon. Dunbar High School athletic director Henry Frazier was there to speak on behalf of Davis' development into an All-American for the Crimson Tide, while Maryland Director of Player Development Kevin Glover discussed Davis' heralded career with the Terps and provided the alumnus with a commemorative helmet.
Since being picked sixth in the 2006 NFL Draft, Davis has been one of the best pass-catching tight ends over his 13-year tenure playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins. He made two Pro Bowl appearances with the 49ers and won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015. For the last three seasons, he's suited up for his hometown Redskins.
Outside of football, Davis has pursued several passion projects in various fields. He has his own sports supplement company called "Timeless" and created the Vernon Davis Foundation of the Arts in 2012, highlighting artwork from disadvantaged children around the area and providing grants and scholarships for nonprofit programs. Last year, he started the "Read 85" campaign, donating 500 books to several underprivileged schools and emphasizing the importance of reading to more than 3,000 students. He's even done some acting in TV shows and will appear in the upcoming movie Hell on the Border.
Tuesday afternoon, Davis returned to his childhood stomping grounds to share his experiences. DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee called the event, "a big day for DCPS."
"The young people get an opportunity to hear somebody who walked in their hallways, lived in the community they lived in and experienced great success and decided to come back and share that success with the community with which he was raised," Ferebee said. "That is phenomenal for our students and our community."
Students from preschool to high school came out to recognize Davis for his efforts in the community. Before the ceremony, third graders lined the hallways chanting "Davis" as he walked through his former school. Afterwards, Davis posed for pictures with Dunbar football players.
But during the "Vernon Davis Day" ceremony, and specifically when Davis addressed the crowd, they just listened, taking in perspectives from a man who was once exactly where they were.
"I hope that they can take my message and all of the questions that they asked and translate that into their life as they continue to move forward," Davis said. "You never know. It could be one word, it could be one moment, they take that information and they hold onto it and they remember as they go on throughout their life."