NFL player turned curling fan Vernon Davis chosen honourary Team USA Olympic captain

Tight end attending 3rd consecutive Winter Games

NFL player turned curling fan Vernon Davis chosen honourary Team USA Olympic captain
NFLer Vernon Davis has fallen in love with curling over the last three Winter Olympics. © Devin Heroux/CBC Sports

By Devin Heroux, CBC Sports

Pigskin and granite, grass and ice, touchdowns and hammers. Football and curling couldn't be more different — but Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis doesn't care.

In fact, the six-foot-three, 244-pound hulking NFL player has fallen in love with the roaring game over the years and is making his third appearance at the Winter Olympics as an honorary captain with the USA curling team.

"When it comes to curling it gives me so much joy watching that stone going down the ice and hit that other rock," he said. "I resonates with me. It's one of those things. It's an amazing feeling and something you get addicted to."

Davis got his curling start in 2009 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. An Associated Press writer suggested he try the sport in advance of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Davis did. The rest is history. He got his first taste of Olympic curling in Canada, returned four years later in Sochi and is once again back at the Games. 

In a lot of ways, Davis has become the poster boy for curling in America.

"Sometimes I wake up and go, 'wow, I'm part of this sport that I knew nothing about,'" he said.

And watching all that curling seems to be helping his game. He's been working on his own execution of his delivery — it was shaky at first but is getting more and more smooth every day. He plays several times a year at a nearby curling club in Laurel, Md.

While in Pyeongchang, Davis will be spending most of his time with the United States men's team skipped by John Shuster. 

He's also in a partnership with USA curling that signed a sponsorship agreement with Cheetos. Davis joined forces with members of Team USA, ex-NFLer LaDainian Tomlinson and performing artist Todrick Hall to create this promo video called "Teach Me How To Curl," a take on Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How To Dougie."

But there's more at stake to all of this for Davis.

Raising curling awareness in the African-American community

Davis grew up in Washington in an atmosphere he says didn't provide the greatest opportunities for him and many others.

He found his way through sport and has made a living playing football. But he recognizes not everyone is going to make their way to the NFL. So now he's trying to grow the sport of curling within African-American communities across the United States to provide more opportunities in sport.

"This is all about awareness," he said. "When you do that, you give them another opportunity to do something different and constructive. Now it's about access and getting them access to it."

Davis is having conversations about getting a curling rink built somewhere in D.C.

"When you give those opportunities you help them get to where they're trying to go. They may not know where they're going but you help them on their journey."

The Olympic journey starts for Davis and Team USA early next week. Davis will only catch the first couple of games before leaving on Thursday.

Only once has the United States captured a medal in curling at the Olympics — a bronze medal in 2006.

But Davis senses the time is nearing for an American team to reach a little higher on the Olympic curling podium, which would go a long way in helping grow the game the way he wants. 

"Soon. Soon. Let's go, let's go, let's go," Davis said, smiling.