INDIANAPOLIS — The very first question fielded by pass rusher Marcus Davenport during his media availability Saturday at the NFL Combine was about the motivation he draws as a player from UTEP rather than one from a more established program in a stronger conference.
“What really motivates me is when people say the wrong name. You said UTEP. I go to UTSA.”
The reporter who thought Davenport played at UTEP probably isn’t the first to make that mistake. Just seven years ago, UTSA didn’t even have a football program at all. Davenport joined the team in 2014 after only its third season.
At that point, the program had never been in a bowl game and never had a player drafted. UTSA has since checked both of those boxes with a trip to the 2016 New Mexico Bowl and the Vikings’ selection of tight end David Morgan in the sixth round two years ago.
But when Davenport gets picked in April, it’ll be a new milestone for the still-young football program. The pass rusher will likely land in the first round, an incredible accomplishment for a player who’s made even more growth since 2014 than Roadrunners football.
Davenport grew from Gumby to Jadeveon Clowney in 4 years
There’s a reason Davenport — a 6’6, 264-pound defensive lineman with 17 tackles for loss in 2017 — played football at UTSA instead of a powerhouse like Alabama. In 2014, he was a two-star recruit who tipped the scales at 190 pounds.
The plan all along was for Davenport to eventually sack quarterbacks, but UTSA hoped he’d have time to develop. Instead, injuries to other players forced him into action as a true freshman and he had to hold his own against FBS offensive linemen with about 100 poi
“I learned that I had to hit-and-run, hit-and-run,” Davenport said. “It was like blitzkrieg. I was not about to just go up and fight them head-on.”
Now — 74 pounds later — Davenport is drawing comparisons to a few of the most physically impressive defensive line prospects of recent years, including former No. 1 pick, Jadeveon Clowney:
Unlike Davenport, Clowney was a force of nature long before he stepped on the field at South Carolina. Even now, the UTSA product is still getting the hang of his new size and strength.
“I’m getting used to it,” Davenport said. “But also I feel like I’ve developed more speed. My body has transformed over two, three years.”
Davenport was listed at 235 pounds by UTSA during his junior season in 2016 and 255 pounds in 2017. What type of player will he be in 2018 and beyond remains to be seen, but he’s certainly shooting high. When asked who he models his game after, he gave a list of names who all wreak havoc, but in much different ways.
“It’s weird, I always say like three people – Calais Campbell, Von Miller and JJ Watt. But then I always like to look at the Freak, Myles Garrett.”
When the 2018 NFL Draft arrives, Davenport’s size, speed, athleticism and production mean he probably won’t have to wait until the end of the first night to hear his name called. And that’s something truly remarkable for a player who — more than 70 pounds ago — joined a team that never had a player drafted before.