If tight end Vernon Davis? career had continued along the path of his first three seasons, he would have been remembered as the enigmatic player 49ers coach Mike Singletary banished to the locker room during a game.
But Davis has moved past that inglorious memory. Now, he is recognized as the player who is fulfilling his vast potential as the sixth overall pick of the 2006 draft.
Used primarily as a blocker through his first three NFL seasons, Davis has flourished this season as the 49ers? leading pass catcher. He was chosen Tuesday as a starter for the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Davis joins inside linebacker Patrick Willis, also a starter, and punter Andy Lee as 49ers chosen to the Pro Bowl. Willis was named for the third time in three NFL seasons, while Lee will make his second trip to the all-star game.
Three 49ers were selected as alternates: running back Frank Gore (first alternate), interior defensive lineman Justin Smith (second alternate) and special teamer Michael Robinson (second alternate).
Davis is having a breakout season in Jimmy Raye?s offense, which features the tight end in the passing game. He was chosen to the NFC Pro Bowl team for the first time.
Davis ranks first among NFL tight ends with 12 touchdown receptions. Only New England wide receiver Randy Moss has more touchdown catches. Davis is second in the NFC in receiving yards among tight ends with 876, and he?s tied for third in receptions with 72.
He traces his awakening to the game in which he drew a penalty and was sent to the locker room in Singletary?s first game as head coach last October against Seattle.
?Coach Singletary helped me out,? Davis said. ?It woke me up and made me realize how important the game is, not only for me but for my teammates. It?s not just about me. It?s about my team.?
Willis is having his best all-around season for the 49ers. He ranks No.1 in the NFL with 147 tackles ? 13 ahead of Carolina?s Jon Beason and Washington?s London Fletcher. Willis also has four sacks, three interceptions, a touchdown, 13 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles.
Willis is the second 49ers player to be named to the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons. Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott was named to the Pro Bowl each of his first four years.
?Just being in the same sentence as Mr. Ronnie Lott is an honor,? Willis said. ?I?m at a loss for words. That?s someone who was one of the best to ever play the game.?
Singletary, a Hall of Fame middle linebacker, believes Willis still has plenty of room to get better.
?Pat has a ways to go before he gets all of it,? Singletary said. ?I don?t know how good he can be. But I know he?s not there yet. He knows it as well. There is so much more that he can do better.
?It is amazing to me that a guy could have that much ability as a linebacker. This offseason,I am really excited about some of the things and some of the goals he has this offseason of trying to take that next step. I am excited to see where it goes, but he is exceptional.?