By Tracy Sandler

Tight End Vernon Davis was the 49ers’ 2006 first-round draft pick out of the University of Maryland. He has had tremendous success, with 423 receptions for 5,446 yards and 55 receiving TDs (11 rushing). After having an off year in 2014, Davis comes into 2015 with high expectations for himself, his teammates, and his new head coach. I had a chance to talk with Davis last week and let me tell you, this guy gives new meaning to the term Renaissance man. Join me as I go Under the Helmet with Vernon Davis.

Davis is not just an entrepreneur and a football player; he’s also a philanthropist with his own foundation. According to vernondavisfoundation.org, the mission of the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts is “…to promote art education and art appreciation among youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. We fulfill our mission by providing scholarships to dedicated art students and grants to deserving nonprofit programs who share in our ideals.”

This is an area that Davis has been passionate about since he was a young kid who loved art but didn’t feel that he would fit in if he pursued it.

“…[W]hen I was a kid growing up in the Washington, DC area, the environment that I grew up in…it stopped kids from being able to pursue the arts. And I say that because, in order to be cool you had to have the newest pair of shoes, like Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley. And you had to play a sport; you had to participate in a sport. So kids wouldn’t, they couldn’t really pursue their dreams, all because they were worried about people making fun of them.”

“So when I got to college, I felt like I was free. I was in a different environment. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted to do. So I decided to change my major from criminal justice to art studio, and I didn’t look back. I mean, it was truly amazing. Every day I walked into that class, I felt good about myself, very confident…I was just in a whole other atmosphere, and I could do the things that I wanted to do without worrying about people critiquing me, calling me names…It was pretty amazing.”

It’s also pretty amazing that Davis has worked to provide this opportunity to artists with Gallery 85 on Santana Row and through the Foundation’s scholarships to students looking to study art.

“…[I]n the art gallery, what we do is, we pick local artists within the Bay Area, and they have a chance to showcase their art in my gallery. We give them a platform to just have their work seen by so many different people that come into the gallery. We give them 50% of the proceeds, and the other 50 goes toward the Foundation.”

“At the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts, we give out scholarships. So we’re all about helping kids that are involved in art and are trying to go to school for the arts; we help them get into school by meeting them halfway with whatever financial stability they need. Then they have scholarships.”

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