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Guitar Hero

Posted Jul 21, 2011

Reggie Davis is a father of five, a former NFL tight end and comes to the 49ers fresh off his experiences as a successful collegiate position coach. He’s played alongside 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and served as a member of Harbaugh’s first coaching staff at the University of San Diego. Needless to say, the two family men have formed a strong bond, one that has been recently reunited in the Bay Area. Click here to watch Davis' interview.

HIS INSTRUMENT of choice says everything you need to know about him. It’s not flashy. It’s not over-the-top. Really, it’s just a needed component of his melodic process. Reggie Davis enjoys playing the bass guitar as a hobby, the instrumental representation of his role in the game of football. The 49ers tight ends coach doesn’t try to overpower the spotlight; he prefers to play a substantial portion of the overall melody. It’s always been that way for the 35-year-old coach, who enjoys contributing to his team’s success much more than celebrating personal achievements.

Besides, Davis has family and players to trumpet. And when he’s looking to unwind from a long day, Davis’ trusty Fender Squire P-Bass guitar isn’t far from his side either. “If I do have some time,” says Davis, “I try to fiddle on the bass guitar a little bit. I wouldn’t say I’m a bassist; I’m far from than that.” The guitar takes a backseat to family life with wife Jennifer and his five children that include two sets of twin boys and a daughter. But if Davis discovers a catchy song with a nice bass line, he’ll try his best to figure out how to play it. Davis’ self-starting ways of current day were even apparent in his early experiences with football too. It’s the identity Davis has forged in the game.

IN ORDER to play football, Davis had to do some work on his own. A local Pop Warner coach routinely visited Davis’ home in Long Beach, Calif., trying to gauge his interest in playing football. Davis was into it; his father was not. “He was always scared that I’d get hurt,” recalls Davis. But after a bit of negotiating between the Davis’ took place, the grade school student made an agreement to play the game he desperately wanted to play. If Davis put on enough muscles in the weight room, he would be allowed to play football as a freshman in high school. Knowing it was his only chance to convince his father, Davis regularly lifted weights to add size and strength.

“Apparently it was enough,” remembers Davis, who played flag football in elementary school, but never tackle football. Once he donned the shoulder pads for the first time, Davis became a skill player, following in the footsteps of the NFL superstar he idolized. At the time, Davis had a Barry Sanders poster on his wall, a tribute to the Hall of Fame running back of the Detroit Lions. But after conversing with his mother about playing quarterback, Davis quickly added a poster of former Philadelphia Eagles signal caller Randall Cunningham to his room. “I ended up being a running back playing the quarterback position,” Davis recalls. As a run-first passer, his athleticism was hard to ignore.

The University of Washington liked Davis’ size and skills and ultimately offered him a scholarship to play tight end. And so the player, who was deemed too small to play Pop Warner, went on to play in four bowl games for the Huskies. Although he didn’t consider himself to be a coach in-training, Davis’ leadership qualities were naturally displayed. As a senior, he served as a co-captain for the Huskies and was poised to play football professionally.

STRONG CHARACTER and ability led Davis to the NFL following his time in the Pacific Northwest. Though he went undrafted in the 1999 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers signed Davis, where appeared in 26 games in two seasons. Davis caught 13 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown reception. And as fate would have it, Davis’ only touchdown catch in the NFL was thrown by his current boss. On Nov. 21, 1999, Davis hauled in a touchdown pass from Jim Harbaugh in a loss to the Chicago Bears.

After two seasons with the Chargers, Davis’ NFL playing career came to an end. He tried finding a home on teams in the Canadian Football League, but ultimately, he elected to turn his sights towards coaching. It wasn’t typical football instructing, but Davis found ways to share information while spending time at Play Fast Athletics in San Diego. There, he taught young players about the benefits of speed and strength training. At the time, it was a perfect fit for Davis, who could attest to the benefits of weight training prior to playing football in high school.

AT NEARLY every level of his football life, Davis had been recruited in some form or another. It was the same way when it came to coaching. “I always said, ‘I never wanted to be a coach,’” recalls Davis. “It was something I was dead-set against.” What turned the tide for Davis was his reconnection with Harbaugh. When his former Chargers teammate accepted the position of head coach at the University of San Diego in 2004, Davis reached out to him with a phone call to see if he could help the team. Certainly, Davis’ name wasn’t far from Harbaugh’s mind; he offered him a coaching position immediately.

When Davis joined the San Diego staff, it didn’t take long for him to realize the profession would be a great fit. “When I got hooked up with Jim and got to be around some other coaches who were doing what I thought was the right way – it opened up my eyes that it was something I could do,” says Davis. Naturally, the former NFL tight end had a role on the staff as a tight ends position coach. But he also helped coaching special teams.

Davis went on to other coaching stops following his time in San Diego. He coached running backs for three years at UNLV (2005-07) and moved on to Oregon State to coach running backs. Davis reunited with former Chargers head coach Mike Riley in the Pac-10, where he worked with Jacquizz Rodgers, the first freshman in conference history to earn its Offensive MVP award in 2008. Davis surely offered advice and guidance through Rodgers’ breakout season, but he took a modest approach in discussing the Atlanta Falcons rookie’s accomplishments. “We all know that good coaches are helped out tremendously by great athletes,” says Davis, “so that was very fortunate for me.”

RIGHT ON cue, Davis found himself in a similar situation from what he experienced at Oregon State when agreed to become the 49ers tight ends coach. Davis will inherit a talented group of tight ends on the 49ers roster, led by former Pro Bowler Vernon Davis and versatile performer Delanie Walker. “Again, it’s just another great situation for me,” says the coach, who will instruct the group along with offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “There must be an angel on my shoulder the way things keep happening for me. I get to come in and coach a guy who has gone to the Pro Bowl and has an incredible amount of talent.” But Davis knows he has to continue to guide the entire tight end group in order to hone their skills.  Both Davis and Walker provide the coaching staff a lot of options to work with. “We’ll definitely have fun figuring out how to utilize those guys,” says Davis.

The reason for having both Davis and Roman work with the tight ends is simple; the coordinator wants two coaches working with every position group throughout the offense. “The tight end position in our offense is a very involved position,” says Roman. “There are a lot of different things that they do.” With the tight ends being depended on heavily, Roman knows he can lean on the former NFL tight end coaching the position beside him. “He’s a very thorough, detail-oriented coach,” Roman added. “I’m really looking forward to working on the field with Reggie.” From Davis’ perspective, the feeling is mutual. So when the NFL’s current work stoppage is resolved, there’s no doubt that the coaching duo will be pleased to be collaborating with each other. Though Davis enjoys playing the guitar, winning football games brings music to his ears too.

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