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Leonard Davis: Rocking and Blocking

Posted Aug 30, 2012

Leonard Davis spends his Sundays in the fall blocking defenders, but in the offseason, he works his trade as the bass guitar player in the heavy metal band “Free Reign.”

It’s a testament to Davis’ talent, in both football and music, that the veteran guard was able to pursue both of his dreams.

Still, even with his passion for music being such a big component of his life, Davis left his bass guitar behind when moving out to the Bay Area after signing with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason.

Davis has been all about making an immediate impact on his new team.

It’s not hard to see the 6-foot-6, 350-pound lineman standing out.

“Probably the largest man I’ve ever stood toe-to-toe and knee-to-knee with in my entire life is Leonard Davis,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said early in training camp.

Lately, the 49ers have utilized Davis as an extra blocker in the team’s power-running packages. Using a blocker of Davis’ size was a no-brainer in the eyes of the 49ers coaches, and was also appreciated by the veteran with an impressive track record.

The veteran guard has used his size to great effect throughout his 11-year career having started all 155 of the games in which he has appeared. Davis earned three-straight Pro Bowl appearances between 2007 and 2009 to go along with a Second-Team All-Pro selection in 2007.

His music is also spreading around the team.

One of his band’s songs, “Rise Up” played over the sound system in Candlestick Park before the team’s first exhibition game earlier this month.

Rocking the Line

For Davis, what is a dream for most athletes is now a reality. His band has a recording deal and a successful debut album.

Davis began playing the bass guitar four years ago, before starting lessons a year later. He formed his band during his time with the Dallas Cowboys alongside teammates Mark Colombo and Cory Procter. The trio, along with guitarist Justin Chapman, released their first album in 2009.

Being a band made up of professional offensive linemen, it’s no surprise their first album was titled “Heavier than Metal.”

Davis describes the band’s sound as having its own flavor, while his musical taste varies from rock to country to blues to rap.

There is no escaping the fact that forming a band with teammates can only bring a club closer together.

“It is fun being in a band with teammates,” Davis said. “The camaraderie you have with football is very similar in the band. One of the benefits is you get to experience meeting famous musicians.”

Davis now calls the members of metal headliners like Metallica, Five Finger Death Punch, Pantera and Disturbed contemporaries as well as friends.

Following the success of their debut album, Free Reign’s next recording has been delayed by the challenges of the band members each having separate NFL careers.

Davis is now in the Bay Area, Colombo recently retired and Procter is currently a free agent.

Davis assures Free Reign fans that one day when all the members are finished with football a sophomore effort will be in the works. For now though, Davis is focusing on his day job.

One Big Tight End

Despite his musician status, Davis has been hard at work since signing with the 49ers in late July.

There has been little thought of playing music, if even to escape the rigors of training camp.

For Davis it’s all about football, especially considering he’s adjusting to a new team and the thick playbook that goes along with it.

“Right now I have just been working on everything that we have been doing,” Davis said about his training camp. “I have been trying to get my knowledge of the offense down first and foremost. Without that, there is no way I can step out on the field period.”

Davis’ playing time is likely to be limited at his traditional position of right guard.  Alex Boone appears to be the team’s first team option at that spot heading into the regular season.

Davis, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 Draft, is most comfortable at guard, but he is willing to do what it takes to help the team.

This season that may entail learning a new position. In doing so, Davis may be forced to rely upon his experience in having quickly learned to play bass.

Davis lined up as a tight end for multiple snaps in the team’s third preseason game against the Denver Broncos.

It’s no surprise that the 49ers coaching staff is looking to find a way to get Davis on the field.

Under Harbaugh, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs has spent time at tight end this preseason and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga notably has made big contributions at fullback.

Davis said he never had to declare himself as an eligible receiver in his professional career before he got to San Francisco.

“It is a little different out there,” Davis said about lining up as a tight end.  “For what we are doing, it is still the same technique.”

Banging Helmets

In his short time with the team, Davis has developed a following among his teammates due to both his experience as an NFL player and his musical talents.

Davis has spent most of his time working with the second team behind Boone, who is in his fourth season.

It’s a credit to Davis’ team-first attitude that he has accepted a new role with the 49ers and embraced helping the younger Boone despite the fact that the two compete for playing time.

Davis has been like many of his fellow 49ers newcomers in putting the team first.

Harbaugh has noticed.

“It's always the first question, it's just human nature,” the coach said. “You're trying to find out what's in another man's heart. Is he about us, or is he about himself? It's been a great group, from first year guys to 10-plus-year guys, it's been a good fit.”

Davis has proven to be about the team in more ways than one, serving as a mentor to the younger Boone.

“When they brought him in I was very happy,” Boone said. “I understand nothing in this league is given, you have to earn everything. To bring in a guy like that, I thought I would use this to my advantage and I have. I have asked him tons of questions. I probably bothered the hell out of him. I think that he is a web of knowledge that should be drained … it has made it fun to compete.”

Boone is already a fan of Free Reign’s loud and powerful guitar riffs as well. The band’s musical style echoes the way its band members, and Boone, play football.

“Leonard was letting me listen to one of their songs on the plane to Denver,” Boone said. “He gave me the headphones and I couldn’t hear what he was saying while he was trying to explain the song. I was listening to it instead. It sounded really good to me.”

It’s still early in the season, but some of Free Reign’s music has already been exposed to players and fans alike.

When the band’s song, “Rise Up” played over the sound system in Candlestick Park before the team’s first exhibition game, Davis felt the song set the mood for the physical style of football that epitomizes a Harbaugh-coached team.

“That song is more of an anthem kind of song,” Davis explained. “It’s one of those songs where you listen to it, and then you feel like you are ready to go. When we were coming up with it, we had a pump-up song in mind.”

While the 49ers coverage team has its own anthem – Future’s “Tony Montana” – there is no telling whether “Rise Up” or another Free Reign song may catch on in the 49ers locker room if not among the team’s Faithful fans.

If that doesn’t work out, there’s another member of the 49ers who plays an instrument. Isaac Sopoaga has been known to strum out on the ukulele.

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