They came at an hour he wasn’t expecting and older brother Vernon wasn’t about to take “no” for an answer.
Vernon didn’t have to bring Vontae, his younger brother by four-and-a-half years, along for those early morning workouts.
The older brother was trying to build a foundation in Vontae to realize the talent he had been blessed with and what could be the fruits of his labor if he joined Vernon before the sun rose.
“I did that because based on the community, the environment that we grew up in, I wanted him to make it,” Vernon says of why he brought Vontae along. “I wanted him to be successful.
“In order for him to be successful, I knew as a kid that I had to work extremely hard to get to where I wanted to go. It was up to me, to motivate, to push him, to drag him out whenever I went out to try and persuade him and influence him to put in that hard work.”
So there was Vontae, reluctantly getting out of bed and following his big brother to Dunbar High School just east of Washington D.C.
The workouts included a variety of drills with running bleachers and sprints typically being the most frequent.
Even though Vontae did not completely know what his future would hold on the gridiron, he slowly began to realize what big brother was trying to instill in him.
“You always have to get better all the time,” Vontae says of Vernon’s message.
“If I was at home then someone was out there getting better.”
When Vernon graduated from Dunbar H.S. in 2003 he was one of the nation’s most heralded recruits.
The future Pro Bowl tight end for the 49ers elected to attend nearby University of Maryland and Vernon’s proximity to home allowed him to keep a close eye on Vontae.
But once Vontae reached his junior year at Dunbar, the older brother’s motivation wasn’t needed any more.
“(Vontae) was mature at that point so he took it upon himself to go out and work hard and I applaud him on his efforts in that because it showed me that everything I tried to teach him was being put into action,” Vernon, who was the No. 6 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, says.
“He wasn’t just taking it all in one ear and putting it out the other. He actually listened and put it to work.”
Vontae graduated from Dunbar in 2006 and his college selection would lead him to the University of Illinois.
The Miami Dolphins would eventually choose Vontae in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
In 2012, the 49ers and Dolphins were in line to play each other but the brother’s first ever match up on the football field would have to be put on hold after Vontae was traded to the Colts just prior to the regular season.
As an eight-year NFL veteran, Vernon has seen a different Vontae since his younger brother arrived in Indianapolis.
“I see that he’s matured,” Vernon says. “He’s growing up as a young man. He’s become more of a professional and he’s a student of the game.
“He’s putting in tons of work. He’s always talking about football and he’s always trying to come up with different ways to get better so he can excel on the team and help his team win.”
The two will finally share an NFL playing field on Sunday afternoon when Vontae’s Colts hit the road to take on Vernon’s 49ers.
Vernon jokes that he “will be licking his chops” if he looks across and sees Vontae lined up opposite of him on Sunday.
All joking aside, the brothers said they will still talk this week like they do each week during the season and there’s a good chance they will have dinner together Saturday evening.
Once Sunday arrives it’s all about competition, with the Davis brothers on the same playing field.
“It will be pretty amazing I must say because of all the hard work we’ve put in, all the dreams that we’ve had, ambitions, the drive, all those things throughout the years and remembering where it all started,” Vernon says reciting the address where Vontae and he grew up.
“We wanted to be the ones to create change. We wanted to just do something different, something that no one has seen. I knew the track that I was on and I just had to get Vontae the same mindset. That’s what we represent.”
And for Vontae, he will certainly look back on all those dreaded workouts and like any younger sibling, little brother is thrilled to get a chance at beating his older brother.
“Now I get to show (Vernon) how far I’ve come since the mornings that he woke me up to run those bleachers,” Vontae says with a smile.
“He always won, so after all those years of him bullying me I get a chance to get back at him.”