Local football stars reunited in Houston

André Davis and Anthony Weaver, high school friends and rivals, have become teammates as veteran pro
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André Davis and Anthony Weaver continue to beat the odds.

They excelled scholastically at Niskayuna and Saratoga Springs high schools, respectively, before joining a small group of Capital Region football players ever to start at major Division I

programs, Davis at Virginia Tech and Weaver at Notre Dame.

Both defied even longer odds, first by landing in the National Football League, and then by enjoying extended careers — by pro football standards — that have reached seven years.

And now, the longest shot of all: The former Section II rivals are teammates, key members of the Houston Texans, a young and exciting team that may be on the verge of a breakthrough season.

Their friendship began when they played against each other in high school.

“I see him every day working out,” said Weaver, a 27-year-old defensive end. “What’s funny is that André and I were talking about the old days just a couple of days ago. I remember a good friend of mine named Trevor Jones. André received a punt, and he juked Trevor right out of his shoes. Trevor’s feet didn’t even move as Dré went by him. Niskayuna scored two touchdowns against us that day, and Dré got both of them.”

“I remember that day. We went up to Saratoga, and I scored a couple of touchdowns. They beat us, but I always remind Anthony about those two TDs,” said Davis, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound wide receiver/kicker returner.

“I see Anthony pratically every day. It’s been a lot of fun with both of us being here. A lot of times, we go back and talk about the good times we had in school. It’s different for us, because in our day, there was nobody in the NFL for us to look up to and follow in their footsteps.

“There are some schools that send nine or 10 players on to scholarships with Division I schools, and maybe six or seven guys go to the NFL. That wasn’t the case in our day. For us both to be in the NFL for seven years and [now] to be on the same team is absolutely amazing. I’m a big supporter of him, and all he’s done. Even when he was in Baltimore and I was in Cleveland, we played against each other. We’ve always had a relationship since high school. It’s fun for us to talk about old times.”

Weaver still comes back home for charity events and to see how his family’s business is going. He helped his father, Ralph, buy what is now the D-Line Pub in Ballston Spa.

“It’s important for me to come back to Saratoga when I can. Saratoga is what made me the man I am today,” he said. “There will always be a piece of Saratoga in me. When it comes to the pub, I helped my family buy it. It used to be an old bar.

My dad approached me with the idea of buying it. He wanted to renovate it, and I supported him. Once my dad gets an idea, he goes for it. The place is going great.”

Weaver, who former Saratoga head coach Blase Iuliano referred to as one of his most intelligent and hardest-working players, was a four-year starter at Notre Dame. He was drafted in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens, and was one of only two rookies to start every game of the 2002 season. He remained with the Ravens through the 2005 season, and after becoming a free agent, he signed with the Texans in 2006.

Last year, he made 32 solo tackles, 41 overall. For his career, the 6-3, 280-pounder has 215 tackles, 15.5 quarterback sacks and two interceptions.

Weaver believes the Texans, who finished 8-8 in the tough AFC South last season, are ready to become one of the best teams in the NFL.

“I see us taking the next step toward the playoffs,” he said. “We were awfully close last year. This team has a tremendous amount of talent with Matt Schaub at quarterback and André Davis and Andre Johnson at receivers. Our running backs are coming along, and we have a very good, young defense. It’s exciting, and the future is bright for us.”

Weaver likes his role as sort of an elder statesman.

“It’s awesome. I almost feel like a proud father,” he said. “It’s fun watching these guys growing and maturing as players. We were only 2-14 when I came here. Now, we have all new faces and a new head coach [Gary Kubiak]. I came in fresh a couple of years ago. If we can turn it around in three years, that’s our plan.”

When training camp comes around late next month, Weaver will be on his toes to make sure none of the youngsters takes his starting job.

“It’s tough to keep up with these young guys,” he said. “But as the years go by, you learn some tricks of the trade. What you lose in footsteps, you gain in smarts. I always continue to work hard. I’ve always done that. I learned how to use my intellect and my knowledge of the game ever since I played back at Saratoga.”

Meanwhile, Davis, who also played soccer and excelled on the track team at Niskayuna, is making the most of an opportunity he received when Johnson went down with an injury late last season.

“It’s always very unfortunate when guys get hurt, but it usually leaves opportunities for somebody to step in and prove what they can do,” said Davis, who accepted a track scholarship from Virginia Tech and ended up playing football for the Hokies, where he was a teammate of quarterback Michael Vick. Davis scored the first TD for the Hokies in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.

After being drafted in the second round as the 47th pick overall, Davis played for the Cleveland Browns (2002-2004), New England Patriots (2005) and Buffalo Bills (2006) before signing with the Texans last year.

“I had an opportunity to show the Texans what I could do,” he said.

After making 33 receptions for 583 yards (17.7 yards per catch) and scoring three touchdowns for the Texans, they signed him to a $16 million deal ($8 million guaranteed) over four years last February.

“Signing that long-term deal helped me and my family to stay right here in Houston for a long time,” said Davis, who has been married for five years. He and Janelle have a son, Baylen, who is 5 months old.

“I’m looking forward to helping this team as both a receiver and on special teams,” said Davis, who has 137 career receptions for 2,198 yards and 17 touchdowns. He continues to be one of the league’s most exciting kick returners, as well. On Dec. 30, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he scored two consecutive touchdowns on kickoff returns, the first for 97 yards and the second for 104 yards.

“I’m taking it one year at a time,” he said. “I was a kick returner when I first came into the league in Cleveland. Then, I got better and got more of a role as a wide receiver. But I want to help the team any way I can. The main thing is to consistently keep a job in this league. You are not always strictly an offensive or defensive player. A lot of times, you’ve got to play on special teams. Ever since college, I learned how important it is to be on special teams. The biggest thing is not to worry what your role is. If you are a consistent player, they will always find a spot for you.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a big-play guy. It’s just a matter of me being healthy for me to be out there making those plays. I just try to make the most of my opportunities. I might not get that many, but I try to take advantage of the ones I get.”

Davis agrees with his good friend that the Texans are on the verge of becoming one of the best teams in the league.

“One of the most exciting things about being in Houston is how young the team is and how much potential we have,” he said. “We lack a little consistency right now, but I think we’re one of the hardest-working teams in the NFL. It’s just a matter of all the guys staying healthy. We play in one of the hardest divisions, but that makes us better because of the level of competition, week in and week out.”

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