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NFL standout goes on an ironic path

Tyrone Davis never desired to play football as a boy, and ironically enough that was the sport where he later gained fame and fortune. 

The former University of Virginia receiver and NFL receiver and tight end is one of another group of standout athletes tabbed for induction into the Halifax County-South Boston Sports Hall of Fame.

The annual banquet and induction ceremonies take place Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. at Halifax County Middle School, with Davis, Nancy and Carl Duffie, Charlie Baskervill and the late Ray Hendricks set to enter the Hall.

Following in older brother Jeff’s footsteps, Tyrone Davis played baseball and basketball growing up and never really thought about football.

“I never wanted to play football growing up.  My brother and I played basketball, but my first love was baseball,” recalled Davis.

“Even now, it’s always been baseball.  I played in the Dixie Youth league and Babe Ruth and junior high, and I focused more on track and basketball in high school.”

The idea of Davis’ playing football came about after talking with a friend while he was in high school.

“Derwin Faulkner, who was the quarterback on the football team, asked me if I wanted to come out for the football team,” recalled Davis.

“We were just hanging out, it was just something to pass the time away, and one thing turned into another.”

“Actually, I have thanked Derwin over the years,” Davis added.

“In college, I did an interview.  They printed the whole story, and they had his name in the title, and I emailed him the story.

“He heard about it, and he’s been thanked properly.”

Davis played only one year of football at Halifax County High School, his senior season, and that was enough to get him noticed by UVa.

He played one year at Fork Union before arriving at the University of Virginia in 1991, where he set the record for career touchdown receptions with 28, a record that still stands.

Davis, who started as a true freshman, played wide receiver at Virginia from 1991-1994.

He stands fifth in career receiving yards with 103 catches for 2,153 yards, and he averaged 20.9 yards per catch for his career, second only to Herman Moore.

He led the team in receiving yards three of his four years at Virginia, 1991, 1992 and 1994 with 465, 548 and 691 yards, respectively, and he led the team in receptions his senior year with 38 catches, 10 of which were touchdown receptions.

Davis had four 100-yard receiving games as a Cavalier.

“When I got there, everything I heard was I was here to fill his shoes, and I’m like honored to be mentioned in the same breath as him,” recalled Davis when comparing himself to Moore.

“But, I’m here to be me,” he recalled himself thinking, and Davis was able to do some things and break Moore’s career touchdown receiving record.

A fourth round draft choice of the New York Jets in 1995, Davis played eight years in the NFL, first with the Jets and then with the Green Bay Packers, and he played for the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII in 1998.

He finished his pro career with 73 receptions for 795 yards, a 10.9-yard average per catch, and he caught 13 touchdown passes, his best year being 1998 with the Packers where he caught 18 passes for 250 yards and seven touchdowns.

A 6-4, 220-pound receiver entering the NFL, Davis was converted to tight end in his second season and final season with the Jets, and he said he was “kind of tricked” into doing it.

“They tricked me into it,” Davis laughed.  “When I was drafted and went to the combine, a lot of teams asked me how I would feel about playing tight end.”

At 6-4, 220 pounds, Davis was big for a wide receiver in 1995, and there weren’t many wide receivers that size back then, he explained.

“Now it’s commonplace, but back then when they saw a big receiver they thought tight end,” said Davis.

“After my rookie year and during the off season, not a lot of guys stayed in town, and we were running drills with quarterbacks, receivers and running backs, but we didn’t have any tight ends.

“I ran some tight end routes not thinking if I did well they might change me to tight end.

“After awhile, not much longer than a couple of weeks, they asked me to move to tight end.”

Davis, listed at 6-4 and 260 pounds while playing tight end, spent time on the field and in the locker room with a number of well-known NFL players, but the one he’s asked most about is almost a lock for the NFL Hall of Fame, former Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

“Brett Favre was quite a character,” Davis pointed out.  “You know what, people ask me about him all the time, and you’d be surprised how down to earth he is.

“The guy you see on TV jumping and laughing is what he is, a down home country boy, and I am, too.”

Davis’ NFL career covered both highs and lows, from the 3-13 and 1-15 years he spent with the Jets to the first year he spent with the Packers, a Superbowl team that lost to the Denver Broncos.

“I went from a 1-15 team to a team that went to the Superbowl the next year, so I was on both ends of the spectrum,” Davis said.

Davis moved to Houston before he retired and worked in the mortgage business until the real estate meltdown several years ago.

Much of his time now is devoted to playing golf and charity work.

“I do a lot of charity work so I just try to stay busy,” Davis explained.

“The NFL does a good job with its retirement package.  The one thing I wish they would do is give us more insurance, but they do a pretty good job of taking care of us.”

His big brother, Jeff, will introduce him at the Hall of Fame banquet.

“He’s two years older than I am,” Davis pointed out.  “He started playing before me.  Naturally, I wanted to join big brother’s team, and the first team I was on he was on.”

It’s an honor to be recognized as someone worthy of being in the Hall of Fame, Davis noted.

“When I got the call I was pretty excited about it.  I was home a couple of years ago, and Harvey Dillard mentioned something to me about it, so we talked a few minutes.

“I’m pretty excited.”