It started with a handshake. A very firm handshake.
It was 2006, and one of the 49ers' draft choices, Vernon Davis, approached another as they prepared to get team physicals. "And I walked up like, &‘What's up, man? What's your name?'" Davis recounted. "He was like, &‘Delanie. Delanie Walker.' And when I shook his hand, I shook his hand real hard. He said, &‘Daaang, bro, why you gotta shake my hand so hard?' From that day, I knew he'd be a funny guy."
The two have been close friends ever since, despite their different pedigrees. Davis was the sixth overall pick in the draft, a can't-miss prospect from the University of Maryland with a movie star's smile and a weightlifter's body. Walker had played for two years at Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California, then two more at obscure Central Missouri before joining the 49ers as a sixth-round selection, the 175th player overall.
Davis was a classic tight end, immediately penciled into the starting lineup. Walker would play tight end, too, but he'd have to toil on special teams as he made the conversion from wide receiver.
Five years later, they form one of the NFL's most versatile tight end combinations, and their bond is stronger than ever.
"They're like brothers," fellow San Francisco tight end Justin Peelle said. "They sit there and argue like brothers."
To an outsider, Davis and Walker seem very different in temperament. Davis is larger than life, the center of attention nearly everywhere he goes. He gets bit parts in films and personal audiences with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and even had enough charisma to build interest in the sport of curling for about five minutes during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Walker is engaging, too, but he is more subdued and approachable. He rarely makes headlines off the field.
Both of them insist Walker has a different side to his personality when he clocks out.
"I think I steal all his attention when I come around," Walker said with a laugh. "I'm quiet in the locker room, but outside I'm a totally different person. And I think that's why we get along so much."
Walker has spent considerable time in Washington, D.C., getting to know Davis' family and checking out his charitable endeavors, and the two frequently shadow one another in the Bay Area. When Davis took part in a panel discussion on art at the de Young Museum's Koret Auditorium in May 2010, Walker sat quietly in the back of the room, there to support his friend.
Along the way, they have helped each other considerably. Walker was always the affirmative voice in Davis' ear when the outspoken star got frustrated over playing time or catches. And
Davis spent a lot of time helping Walker learn the finer points of blocking, something he could largely ignore as a college wide receiver.
Asked to evaluate Walker's blocking as a rookie, Davis said: "Not so good. ... Delanie, when he'd lead-block, he'd go up in there sideways. His blocking is so far ahead from what it was when he first got here."