Davon House had heard doubters at every turn.
How the top schools weren’t recruiting him because he came from small-time Palmdale, Calif., rather than big-time L.A.
How he had a long way to go to match his older brother, who was playing baseball in the minor leagues.
So when New Mexico State defensive backs coach Mike Rutenberg, a member of DeWayne Walker’s coaching staff that came aboard for House’s junior season in 2009, verbally exploded on him and the entire secondary during a training-camp practice, that might have turned into the final push House needed.
“We’re in a tackling drill and I didn’t like the way he tackled, and I just lost it,” Rutenberg said. “I was ripping him and ripping the whole group.
“I challenged him with being physical and being more of an aggressive player, as opposed to being a sit-back, finesse player, and he took that to heart.”
Over House’s final two college seasons, Rutenberg saw that evolution on the field, as House – a 6-0, 195, cornerback whom the Packers drafted in the fourth round late last month – wasn’t the same guy Rutenberg had studied on film prior to arriving with Walker’s staff.
Rutenberg doesn’t want to take too much credit because he sees House as primarily a self-motivated player, and one with his physical gifts was going to improve as he matured regardless. His ball skills came naturally, having spent so much time chasing down fly balls on the diamond with brother Tyreace.
Adding a little hostility to his game, though, became the element on which House focused to give himself a realistic shot at the NFL, and it paid off.
“He does have a natural feel and a really good instinct for the game,” Rutenberg said. “As we challenged him to become a more aggressive-minded player, I do think his ball skills and his pass break-ups went up because he started competing more in that area.”
Indeed, during House’s first season as a full-time starter in 2008, he broke up six passes. Over his final two seasons, he batted away 23, ran back one interception each year for a score, and became a two-time first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection.
The aggressive mentality probably helped House play through an ankle injury much of his senior season, too, and play well. Rutenberg said House allowed only two completions longer than 20 yards last season – one to Vincent Brown of San Diego State, who was drafted in the third round by the Chargers, and another to Hawaii “when he got his feet tangled up,” Rutenberg said.
Like any draft choice, House has plenty to learn in order to succeed in the NFL. He’s probably not done getting lectured on his tackling, and as often as he sat in the Aggies’ film room, he’ll be studying even more now.
The opportunity he has in Green Bay, however, won’t be lost on him. With the Packers’ No. 4 or “dime” cornerback spot open to competition, and with that player pegged potentially as the defense’s next nickel corner, House will come prepared to compete.
He was told aggression was his ticket to the NFL and he listened. Whatever he’s told that might get him onto the field in the NFL, he’ll be all ears.
“He was the kind of kid that if he didn’t get something or if you exposed him, he made it a point to improve on that,” Rutenberg said. “He improved in everything we asked him to do. He’s extremely competitive.”
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