What’s up Yardbarker, this is Vernon back at you. I’m on the East coast where I’m working out hard, staying in shape and doing my thing.
This off-season has been great. One major high point was a two-week mission trip I made to Africa (specifically Northern Uganda and Rwanda) with my brother, Vontae, and some other NFL players with Pros For Africa and Starkey Hearing Foundation. Pros For Africa was started two years ago by a few Oklahoma business professionals, Reggie Whitten, Jay Mitchel and Bill Horn – all of them are great guys – and some good brothers from the NFL, Adrian Peterson, Tommie Harris, Roy Williams and Mark Clayton.
It was my first trip to Africa, so I was excited to make the trip. I felt powerful and ready to help in any way I could. This picture is what I was feeling like about making a difference in Africa.
But let me tell you what happened the night before I left. I was packed and ready to go, and then my tooth started killing me!! So I ended up having an emergency root canal at 6:30am before my 9:30am flight)!! Yes! After that I had to hop on the 20-hour flight to Africa -- that was crazy! Brothers, take care of your teeth, cause that pain was no joke. I’d rather take a hit from Adrian Wilson any day of the week than get another root canal!
(Here’s me in the airport on the way to Africa the morning of our trip after my root canal)
But I finally made it to Africa and I’m glad I did. It was a life changing experience. We fitted hundreds of hearing aids for kids and adults. And to see the look on those kids faces when they could hear for the first time was priceless. It was like giving them the breath of life. One little girl was so excited she couldn’t stop kicking her feet and clapping her hands. Here’s a shot of me fitting a hearing aid on one of the children.
We also partnered with Worldvision and the Water 4 Foundation handing out t-shirts and filtration straws so people could have clean drinking water and digging wells. Another day Vontae, me and a group of players handed out food to 2,500 people through Feed the Children. Another time, Vontae, me and some other players scrimmaged in a flag football game with a team of deaf soccer players. Let me tell you, they have some great raw talent over there!
The thing that broke my heart the most was seeing little kids, like two and three years old, standing completely by themselves on the side of the road. Their parents are off getting water or doing something to keep them alive, so they have to take care of themselves. I thought of my son, Jianni, and how much I protect him…that really hurt. You realize how much we have in America and it makes you feel humble.
One bright light in Uganda is Sister Rosemary and her St. Monica’s Tailoring School – it’s a cool place and she’s an amazing woman. Her school helps girls who’ve been victimized by war and the stories I heard from them blew my mind. I’ve never heard anything like that in my life. One girl had to kill her sister because the military made her do it. Another girl walked barefoot back to Rwanda after escaping the Sudan. Every girl had a story to tell about how they had been hurt, but Sister Rosemary is like an angel over there. Here’s a picture of me and Vontae with Sister Rosemary.
In Rwanda, we visited a memorial site for those killed in the genocide. That was deep. Rwanda is such a beautiful country, we were all glad to see that it’s recovering from its past. Tourism is big in that country. We had some fun times over there too. One day we hiked miles into a national park in Rwanda. There were green rolling hills everywhere and we got to see 15 gorillas from the Kwitonda tribe. The Silver Backs were huge weighing up to 500 pounds, but they were cool, just chillin’ laying around, eating. We saw a mom feeding her baby – the youngest gorilla in the group, 3 months old. That was really wild.
It was a great trip and I definitely plan to go back to Africa one day and I encourage everybody who’s able to get involved in a cause that’s bigger than yourself to do it. It’ll change you for the better.
Later this month, I’m co-hosting a fundraising event with my brother for the Sound Body Sound Mind football academy. This summer, we’re bringing 200 young men from different high schools around DC to Howard University’s campus for a weekend to show them what the NFL is all about. Our hope is that some of them will get a chance to live out their dreams of becoming pro players one day. Some other NFL players will be joining us to teach them drills on speed and agility, and how to be playmakers. We’ll talk about the importance of getting an education and being real men. So I’ll keep you posted on this…..
I’ll be in the Bay area to give a scholarship at a gala in May to this young artist Sheryl Quock whose work is off the chain. I selected her for this year’s Vernon Davis Visual Art Scholarship because when I saw her work it inspired me as a fellow artist. She’s a budding fashion designer and who knows; maybe we’ll collaborate on a clothing line one day. Check out her work at http://sherylquock.weebly.com/. A big shout out to the DeYoung Museum and the San Francisco Arts Commission who I’m working with on this event!
I’m also going to reach out to kids who grew up in similar circumstances as myself and we’ll be painting a mural in the Tenderloin in San Francisco with some graffiti artists whose work is on point…I’m really looking forward to encouraging kids to pursue a career in art if they love it. I had to wait for college to figure that out.
Well I’m going to chill since I did a work out earlier this afternoon and just finished talking to ya’ll. I’ll be back in touch soon.
Hope you had a great Easter!