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Packers: Davon House back, and he’s taking a leadership role

July 10, 2017

GREEN BAY — He didn’t have to do it. Joe Whitt told him so.

Sitting in the Austin, Texas, airport, doing the math as the departure time of his Minneapolis-bound Delta Airlines flight kept getting pushed back because of a thunderstorm, Davon House knew he was going to miss the connecting flight that would get him back in time for the Green Bay Packers’ organized team activity practice the following morning.

The story of his odyssey back to Titletown would go viral, as he put out a distress call on Twitter, looking for a good-hearted Packers fan to chauffeur him from the Twin Cities to Lambeau Field. (He ended up finding a pair of brothers who were up to the task.)

But before the veteran cornerback took to social media, he called Whitt, his position coach. And had House listened to his boss, one of the better stories of the NFL offseason would never have happened.

“He goes, ‘I’m going to try to make it,’ ” Whitt, entering his ninth season as the Packers’ cornerbacks coach, said. “When I realized what he was doing, I was like, ‘Man, you don’t have to be here.’ He said, ‘I’m going to be there. I’m going to make it.’ So that’s what he wanted to do. It’s silly to me, but hey, he’s a different guy. A great guy.

“I wouldn’t have done it, but he did.”

Many veterans would have taken Whitt’s OK for a day off. House didn’t, and not just because, after two unsatisfying years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he’s back where his football heart has always been — with the Packers, who picked him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft.

For House, getting back in time for the technically voluntary practice wasn’t about perfect attendance, or even his workout bonus.

No, it was about Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, and the example they’d set for him as a rookie. It was about paying that forward to the Packers’ young cornerbacks corps, a group that doesn’t have a single player with more than three years of NFL experience beyond House, who is entering his seventh season.

“I think it’s easy to be (a leader) because all I’ve got to do is teach what the vets taught me. I was lucky to have (those guys),” House said. “If anyone is talking about being a Hall of Famer (someday), I had Woodson. If someone’s an undrafted guy, Tramon Williams did it. Those are guys I can talk about, the way they did things, the way they worked. So it’s easy.”

What wasn’t easy for House was the stint he spent with the Jaguars, who went 8-24 during his two years in Jacksonville. A starter in 2015 after getting a four-year, $24.5 million free agent deal to leave the Packers — he played well, with four interceptions and 25 pass break-ups — House was relegated to the bench last season after a shift in defensive philosophy saw the Jaguars move away from press-man coverage (his specialty) to more zone concepts.

When he was cut in March, returning to Green Bay was a no-brainer, given his familiarity with Dom Capers’ scheme, the Packers’ need at the position and the one-year, $2.8 million deal ($850,000 signing bonus) the team gave him.

“I wasn’t going to go anywhere else,” House said. “This is where I wanted to be, this is where I needed to be, for me to show the world what I can do. I mean, I feel I can help this team out. I will, and I’m just happy to be back.

“It’s going to be fun. Every day I go to work being thankful. … I’m just here to try to help the team win the Super Bowl. They haven’t done it since 2010. I feel like I can help do that.”

And while playing well — House figures to be one of the two starters outside on a defense that plays its sub packages on roughly 80 percent of the snaps — would certainly help his old/new team get back to the Super Bowl, his commitment to leading the youngsters who were part of the second-worst pass defense in the 32-team NFL is arguably just as vital.

From dissecting film during position meetings to schlepping over to the airport hotel where the rookies stayed during the offseason program to hold impromptu review sessions, House has done far more than merely talk about leadership.

“There’s no question. He’s been a leader since he’s gotten back here,” Whitt said. “I see him doing some of the things that he saw ‘Wood’ doing, from stopping the film (and saying), ‘Hey, Joe, this is what I see. Hey, guys, this is what we need to do.’ He’s constantly telling the guys. He actually went to the hotel with the young guys (one) night to help them study.

“He’s trying to be — not trying to be — he’s being that leader that we need. He’s the most veteran player in the room, and we need him not only to be a voice of strength off the field but on the field as well. He’s doing that.

“He’s gone as far as any leader has gone in the room. I don’t think I’ve had a guy actually go to the hotel and work with guys. I don’t think I’ve had a guy call me and not ask about himself but, ‘Hey, Joe, what can I do to help so-and-so? What can I do to help this guy?’ And it’s real. It’s not anything that he’s trying to put on a false leadership role. It is genuine and it is real. And I’ve been very, very pleased with what he’s doing. I think he’s leading the group in the right direction.”

“I wasn’t going to go anywhere else. This is where I wanted to be, this is where I needed to be, for me to show the world what I can do. I mean, I feel I can help this team out. I will, and I’m just happy to be back.” DAVON HOUSE