GREEN BAY – Joe Whitt told Davon House he didn’t have to come.
Last month, near the stroke of midnight on a Sunday, the Packers cornerback found himself stranded at the Minneapolis airport after missing his flight to Green Bay due to a delayed connection.
With no rental cars available, House phoned Whitt, his longtime position coach, to ask if it would be OK if he skipped Monday’s organized team activities, which started at 7 a.m.
“He called me beforehand and he asked me if it was OK for him to miss,” Whitt said. “I told him, ‘I’m fine. You have days (available to miss).’ Then, he said, ‘Well, I’m going to try to make it.’”
In a moment that could be best categorized as half-genius, half-madness, House used the powers of social media to track down two Packers fans, Chad and Mike Johnson, willing to give House an overnight ride lift to Green Bay.
House arrived home a little after 4 a.m. He grabbed a couple hours of sleep and managed to report to work on time.
The story quickly went viral with most national outlets picking up on it. For House, it was more than just a headline. As a seventh-year veteran, he felt it was his job to be there.
House wanted to set an example for a room featuring only one other cornerback with more than two years of NFL experience.
“They’re all looking. ‘Where’s House at?’ ‘Oh, he missed again,’” said House, who celebrated his 28th birthday Monday. “Because sometimes when people say their flight was delayed, you’re like, ‘Oh, right. Your flight was delayed. Right.’ I don’t want to be that guy. I took a chance with coming, and it paid off.”
Leadership is more than just a word to House. It’s a responsibility. A fourth-round pick out in 2011, the 6-foot, 195-pound cornerback benefited from the tutelage of Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush in his early years.
House re-signed with the Packers in March after a two-year stint in Jacksonville and immediately made it his mission to be a similar type of resource for the team’s young cornerbacks.
He even went as far as going to the rookie hotel to help the young cornerbacks study the playbook during his downtime in the offseason program, a practice Williams once did with House when he first entered the league.
“Tramon helped me a lot,” House said. “My thing is if you ask, I’m there for you, especially if I have nothing to do. My wife was gone. My kids were in Hawaii. They asked me to come up there and help them, and I said, ‘Sure.’ I want to help them out as best I can.”
Whitt, who coached House during his first four NFL seasons, has been blown away by how seriously House has taken his role in the room. Many players wouldn’t feel such a strong sense of duty considering only one cornerback (Demetri Goodson) remains from House’s first run in Green Bay.
In all of Whitt’s years of coaching, he can’t recall another player who has called him to strictly talk about how he can help the other cornerbacks on the roster, not himself.
He’s been proactive in gaining feedback from Whitt about his leadership style, constantly asking about his energy level and his performance leading the cornerbacks in individual drills.
“He’s gone as far as any leader has gone in the room,” Whitt said. “He knows this is an important year not only for the Packers, but for him as well. I’ve been pleased and it’s real. It’s not anything he’s trying to put on (with) a false leadership role. It is genuine and it is real.”
House has been vocal about the importance of this upcoming season. After signing with Jacksonville as a free agent in 2015, House enjoyed a career year with a franchise-record 23 pass deflections and a career-high four interceptions in 15 starts.
He fell back to a reserve role last year after the Jaguars made a shift to a more zone-based scheme with less man coverage. He started only four games, recording 17 tackles.
Back in Green Bay, House believes he’s in the best position to prove he belongs in the conversation with the best press-man cornerbacks in the NFL.
If it takes a late-night car ride to prove how serious he is about maximizing this opportunity, House is willing to do it.
“That’s what he wanted to do,” said Whitt with a smile. “He’s grown. It’s silly to me, but he’s a different guy. He’s a great guy. He’s a fun guy. He’s a trusting guy. I wouldn’t have done it, but he did.”