Presented By South Jersey Sports Zone
WOOLWICH Twp., N.J. — For any football player, the opportunity to become an NFL player is a dream come true.
For Julién Davenport, being a role model in the community is the cherry on top.
The Indianapolis Colts left tackle was a guest mentor and coach at the First Down Performance Camp and Combine at Kingsway Regional High School on May 22. The event was hosted by former Kingsway standout and Old Dominion all-time leading rusher Ray Lawry III.
The event featured a handful of notable coaches that had ties to Gloucester County and the surrounding area, along with leaders that Lawry III encountered throughout his collegiate and professional football journey.
Coaches at the First Down Performance Camp and Combine introduce themselves to the event’s participants. #Colts LT Julien Davenport, far left, former Villanova DB Ray Rolle, former CFL & Maine QB Danny Collins and former Delaware RB Will Knight are some coaches in-attendance. pic.twitter.com/NWnED1BZnW— Kevin Emmons (@OfficialKEmmons) May 22, 2021
Davenport was thankful for the opportunity to be one of those respected figures to give back to the local community and be a positive influence on the up-and-coming student athletes in the tri-state area.
“It was a big time (thing),” Davenport said. “It’s always great to get around. Anytime you get a guy who was able to get to where I am, to get around the youth and spread knowledge, tell them the tricks of the trade and basically encourage them — it’s big time. In anything they want to do in life, not even just sports.”
The Paulsboro native credits Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerbacks coach and Super Bowl LV champion Kevin Ross for providing him with the guidance and instruction necessary to elevate to the next level.
Ross was also a standout at Paulsboro High School and went on to play at Temple University. The seventh-round selection in the 1984 NFL Draft was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a 2011 inductee into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame. Ross continued to be a staple in the South Jersey football community by coaching at Camden High School and Woodrow Wilson High School in East Camden, along with hosting a handful of instructional camps for the youth.
Davenport was thankful to be a recipient of Ross’ mentorship growing up.
“I was fortunate enough to have it growing up,” Davenport said. “Kevin Ross, who’s here, I was at his camp as a young boy. I put together all the things I learned from there and took it to the next level and made sure I got to where I wanted to be.”
Indianapolis Colts left tackle Julien Davenport directs a group of camp participants working on their stance and first step at the First Down Performance Camp and Combine. @SJSportsZone 🏈@judav70 @Colts @hunnitbill pic.twitter.com/o9v5WgSTtL— Kevin Emmons (@OfficialKEmmons) May 22, 2021
Davenport went on to have a storied career at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He was a four-time All-Patriot League selection with three First Team selections from 2014 to 2016 and a Second Team nod in 2013. The left tackle was the only member of his senior class to start all 44 games and earned the distinction of FCS Collegiate Player of the Year by the Brooks Irvine Club of South Jersey in 2016. Davenport also received First Team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press, STATS and Walter Camp.
The 2013 Paulsboro High School graduate proceeded to be selected by the Houston Texans in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft with the 130th overall pick.
“I was the first player from Bucknell drafted since 1969,” Davenport said. “That was pretty sweet, you know, to bring that kind of attention to the school.”
Davenport played in Houston for two seasons until he was a component of a highly-notable trade that sent Pro Bowl offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans from the Dolphins. Davenport, along with teammate Johnson Bademosi and a plethora of draft picks (two first round picks and a 2021 second round pick), was sent to Miami for Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills and a pair of draft picks (2020 fourth-round, 2021 sixth-round).
“It was good in Houston from ‘17 to ‘19,” Davenport said. “(I was) traded to the (Miami) Dolphins for the 2020 season, was there for two seasons, and I just signed with the (Indianapolis) Colts this past offseason.”
Davenport is optimistic about heading to the Crossroads of America and the opportunity to compete at a high level.
“I’m excited to be around the team and get to work with the guys,” Davenport said. “They have a really good team up there, a really nice culture, coaching staff, everybody in the building is great. They make me feel right at home and they’re doing everything they can to help you, (as a player), excel. They expect the best out of everybody. It’s a real professional environment, but they’re also going to get that professionalism out of you.”
The fifth-year player is also looking forward to being teammates with three-time All-Pro offensive guard Quenton Nelson. Davenport and Nelson already have a connection as Nelson is also a product of New Jersey. The Holmdel native was a standout in football and basketball at Red Bank Catholic before attending Notre Dame and being selected by the Colts with the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Davenport has already given praise to his new teammate.
“He’s one of the best in the league,” Davenport said. “He’s just one of the best at what he does. You can see it (in how) he works (and how) he handles his business. You can see it on film easily. How he approaches the game is I’m pretty sure how he approaches his life. He does his thing and he’s going to work to be the best.”
It’s no coincidence.
In the eyes of Davenport, hard work is just a Garden State tradition.
“I know that’s a lot of ‘Jersey mentality’ in a lot of us,” Davenport said. “We work to be the best in everything that we can be.”
The South Jersey connections don’t end there.
Davenport’s responsibilities will include providing protection for former Woodstown resident and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Those services will also apply to running back Jonathan Taylor.
Taylor finished third in the NFL in rushing yardage with 1,169 yards and tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns with 11 in 15 games played as a rookie. Taylor also represents South Jersey as a 2017 Salem High School graduate.
Coincidentally, Paulsboro and Salem are rivals and perennial contenders in South Jersey Group 1 year in and year out.
For now, the two will no longer be neighborhood rivals. The teammates now represent something much larger than their talents and themselves.
The two are an illustration of how anything is possible.
No matter how small of a city you come from.
“It’s big because it shows that anything is possible,” Davenport said. “There may be a kid in this camp who gets to the position that (Jonathan Taylor and I) were fortunate enough to get ourselves to. That’s what being around to show them we came from a small town (can do). We had to deal with hardships, we fought through adversity and did everything we could to maximize our efforts and get to the spots we wanted to be in. It can be anything in life, not just sports. It’s great to see all the Jersey guys around.”
South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you’d like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
(Photo Credit: Kevin Emmons)