Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Judging by most NFL draft projections, Vontae Davis' decision to leave Illinois a year early looked like a slam dunk.
But Davis was helped along in the process by his older brother, Vernon, who found himself in the same position in January 2006 after three seasons as Maryland. Things worked out pretty well for Vernon, who elected to forgo his senior season and was selected sixth overall in the 2006 NFL draft. Vontae hopes for similar results April 25.
"He influenced me a lot," Vontae Davis said this afternoon on a conference call with reporters. "If I didn't have him, it'd be a lot tougher than what it is. My brother, he's always looking after me. He told me go with what my heart told me."
Davis downplayed the significance of the draft projections -- most of which place him in the first round -- in his decision to leave Illinois. But he did file paperwork with the NFL draft advisory board and was deemed a potential first-round pick.
After earning first-team All-Big Ten honors and recording more than 70 tackles in each of the last two seasons, Davis felt prepared for the next level. He discussed his options with his grandmother, his high school coaches, former Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and Illini head coach Ron Zook, among others.
But having a brother who went through the exact same experience gave Davis an idea of what to expect. He plans on attending the 49ers' season finale Sunday against Washington and might start training with Vernon in preparation for the draft evaluations.
"I looked at it being a goal, an accomplishment to even make it this far," Vontae Davis said. "It's just a blessing to have this opportunity. But a lot of people supported me to help me get to this position."