Former tight end Vernon Davis will be gracing the small screen this Monday night, and for once it won’t be for Monday Night Football.
The longtime baller, who announced his departure from the NFL in February, will be strutting his stuff on the dance floor as one of the new celebrity contestants on Season 29 of Dancing with the Stars, along with names like Chrishelle Stause from “Selling Sunset,” ice skater Johnny Weir, “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin, Backstreet Boy AJ McLean, actor Jesse Metcalf, former “Bachelorette” Kaitlyn Bristowe, and rapper Nelly, to name a few.
Historically, athletes have fared very well on ABC’s hit competition series — which is now hosted by Tyra Banks and DWTS favorite Derek Hough will be on as first-time judge — but Davis remains humble about his skills. The 36-year-old spoke with CELEB about his challenging new territory and transition into entertainment.
“You know what, I was never a great dancer. I don’t have a dancing background,” he admits.
The athlete, who played for the Washington Redskins (now the Washington Football Team), the San Francisco 49ers, and the Denver Broncos, shares that he crossed paths with a DWTS casting director years ago but couldn’t do the show while playing football. “I was always like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna wait until I’m done playing and then get back to it,” he says. “Maybe there will be an opportunity and I’ll be in it.’”
Now, the 36-year-old has his chance to dance. Not bad timing either, as the majority of football stadiums are banning fans this season due to COVID-19, though some are allowing a small percentage of supporters into the venues.
As for how the Dancing with the Stars production team is handling coronavirus precautions, Davis says, “They’re leaving us to be responsible, they want us to make sure we’re doing what we have to do but staying safe while practicing.” He adds, “We get tested every single day we go in.” However, the show, in fact, has had pros separate (even the married dancers) for the duration of the show’s filming, so that if one person gets sick, the virus won’t wipe out two couples.
Although partner announcements were kept under wraps at the time of interview, CELEB confirmed that the football pro Is dancing with DWTS veteran Peta Murgatroyd, wife of fellow dancer and former DWTS pro Maks Chmerkovskiy. Good news for Davis, Murgatroyd knows a thing or two about dancing with football players; The New Zealand native won the coveted Mirrorball in Season 14 with retired Green Bay Packer Donald Driver, not to mention, she also snagged the Season 22 trophy with model, actor, and deaf activist, Nyle DiMarco.
Even though Davis is paired with a strong dancer, he still has his work cut out for him.
“It is extremely hard,” he admits. “It’s like learning football all over again. But dancing. A lot of it is foreign to me, so I just have to be sure I’m paying attention and working on whatever instructions she gives me, so I’m just trying to put it all together. But it’s difficult, it’s definitely a challenge,” he adds.
Luckily, the pair seem to be gelling. “My partner and I work really well together, she’s one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met,” he acknowledges. “She’s energetic, she always wants to work, and she wants to win. You can’t ask for anything more than that. A partner who wants to win who is very competitive, ah, that’s amazing!”
As for the transition into entertainment, Davis has been met with open arms. “I have wonderful people in my corner supporting me, and I just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
The actor and producer already has a jam-packed schedule ahead. “I just finished as a lead in two films. I have a soundstage in Georgia, and we have five films we’re going to knock out between now and 2021. I have a line-up after Dancing with the Stars.”
The father of three divulges that there is a gal at home he’s been dating who showed a hint of jealousy over he and his partner’s moves. “I showed her the videos and she was like, ‘Oh, that’s how you guys gotta dance?’” Lucky for Davis’ lady pal, Murgatroyd is happily married and shares son Shai, 3, with Chmerkovskiy.
Like a skilled football player, Davis is already eying his competition. “Jeannie Mai. She’s going to be some good competition,” the Riff Cold Brewed Coffee investor shares without missing a beat. “I hear she’s got some good skills. She’s definitely one to look for. And Skai Jackson, so, I definitely have my hands full with them, I need to put a lot of time into it, so that I can go out there and perform at my best.”
At the end of the day, that’s all we can do. Davis likes to manage stress from work and the world outside by winding down at home, meditating.
“I lay back in my bed, close my eyes, and I tell myself, ‘Relax your face, relax your neck, today was a great day, tomorrow is going to be better, relax your chest, today was a great day and tomorrow is going to be better,’ he says softly. “I did that all throughout football,” adding that he has always kept a vision board beside his bed.
One of the current items on the board?
“Yeah, it’s my Mirror ball!”