Vernon Davis is the epitome of a game-changer. On the field, the San Francisco tight end is an irreplaceable cog in the 49ers offense. Off the field, he’s been a major player in his community, as well, opening up an art gallery in San Jose and a Jamba Juice in Santa Clara. And if you happened to pick up this year’s ESPN The Mag’s Body Issue—in which Davis’ chiseled frame was obscured only by a strategically placed helmet—you saw his hard work in the gym on full display. We recently chatted with the NFL star about football, food, fashion, and fitness.
MEN'S FITNESS: Even at 6’3”, 250 pounds, you’re still one of the fastest guys in football. How do you train for both strength and speed?
VERNON DAVIS: During the off-season, I lift for [muscle] endurance. I’ll start with 205 pounds and rep it out, then go up to 225 and rep it out, and 245 and rep it out. Then I’ll come back down—245 and rep it out, 225 and rep it out, and so on. I also do explosive drills with trainers I’ve been working with for years. What really works is doing resistance work, with another guy behind me holding a rope tied around my waist. During the season, I lift heavy. I might go up to 435 pounds. I love the bench, it’s always been one of my favorite lifts for strengthening my core.
Diet goes hand-in-hand with fitness. What’s your typical meal consist of?
In the morning, I eat a vegetable egg-white omelet with fruit and oatmeal. Between breakfast and lunch, a protein bar. During lunch, I’ll have a turkey burger or tuna on gluten-free bread, lettuce, and tomato, with a side of veggies and fruit. I’ll drink some protein and carbs before and during practice. And later on that night, a chicken dish with veggies and sweet potato for dinner.
Assuming you couldn’t pick yourself, who would you draft on your fantasy team?
I would have to go with A.J. Green from Cincinnati. He’s fast, his skill set is amazing, and he’s what you want in a wide receiver. He’s authentic—what you see is what you get.
You own a Jamba Juice in Santa Clara, Calif. What made you decide to open that up?
The whole concept of being healthy and fit—that’s very important to me. When I look at the Jamba menu, I see that they have fresh-squeezed juices and healthy snacks and things, so [the partnership] made sense. And the thought did cross my mind: “You know what, if I had my own Jamba Juice, with my name on it, I could have as many Peach Pleasures as I want!”
Why is that your go-to Jamba smoothie?
Something about it moves me. Peach Pleasures make my toes tingle. When I first tasted it, I just made it my own and have been ordering it every time since. Sometimes I’ll amp it up with a protein boost.
I know that it was important for you to create job opportunities for the community, as well…
My thing in life is to always help the next person, especially one that may be less fortunate than you. When you’re able to open an establishment and help others by giving them jobs, you do good things for the community.
What are some on-field qualities that have translated to starting a business?
Just being involved with football, you learn a lot. You start out as a young man in the league, and you make mistakes. But with those trials and errors you become a better man. I also look at the organization differently now. When I look at the president, the CEO, my coach, it’s all a business. And with the things that I have—the Jamba Juice and the art gallery—I can approach it the same way as those guys who’ve had success.
You’re certainly one of the most stylish guys in the league. Any fashion advice for our readers?
Don’t be afraid. And that pertains to business, too—don’t be afraid. You’ve got to take chances and just go with your gut. Don’t be afraid to put colors together. Art is anything…and fashion is art. I do believe every guy needs a nice pair of jeans. They’re so versatile—you can never go wrong. Different washes go with different pairs of shoes, so for me, every time I go to the mall, I try to pick up a pair. I’ve lost count with how many pairs I have at home.