GREEN BAY – Davon House could see the writing on the rain-soaked window as the Packers cornerback waited out a thunderstorm at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
One hour passed and then another. As the delay persisted, House began to realize there was no way he was going to make his connecting flight from Minneapolis to Green Bay.
“Once I found out I was going to miss my connection, that’s when I tried to find a ride,” said House during Tuesday’s organized team activities. “And all the rental car places were closed.”
His options were limited. He either was going to have to wait overnight for another flight or pay handsomely for an Uber or taxi to make the more than four-hour trek to Green Bay.
Staying put wasn’t feasible since it would cause House to miss Tuesday’s OTA practice. In a last-ditch effort, the seventh-year veteran took to Twitter to see if any Packers fans in the Minneapolis area would be willing to give him a ride.
Lying in bed at his home in Eau Claire, Chad Johnson answered House’s plea. He immediately tweeted at the cornerback and tossed a text message to his brother, Mike, in nearby Hudson to tell him about the development.
“I told my brother, ‘Dude, get on my twitter and check out Davon House’s tweets. You could pick him up at the airport,’” Chad Johnson recalled Tuesday. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ I’m like, ‘No, for real.’ He did and contacted Davon and Davon got ahold of him and Mike went and picked them up. I met them on Highway 29 so Mike and I could keep each other awake on the way back.”
Not wanting to wake his wife, Chad left a note by their coffee machine so she knew why he’d be gone when she awoke.
So the three men packed into Mike’s 2016 Chevy Silverado 2500. Chad brought a blanket and Packers pillow for House, but the cornerback had other plans.
House felt it would be rude to fall asleep right away. After all, these two men were sacrificing their own rest to see him safely to Green Bay. He learned more about them.
“That’s like me riding in a car picking up Ken Griffey Jr. or something like that. I want to talk to you,” said House about falling asleep. “I stayed up as long as I could, like a good hour and a half.”
The three men traded stories about football, family and backgrounds. They talked about Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, and House’s return to the Packers after two seasons in Jacksonville.
They even squeezed in a quick food stop for House, who hadn’t eaten since about 1 p.m. due to all the travel setbacks.
“I had to get something to eat,” House said. “We ordered and they started laughing. I was like ‘What’s so funny?’ He goes, ‘Man, she has no clue who she was talking to?’ I’m like, ‘I’m normal like anybody else.’”
House slept on and off for the last 2½ hours of the journey. They arrived in Green Bay around 3:30 a.m. and spent a little extra time together before going their separate ways.
House offered to put them up in a hotel so they didn’t have to drive back, but both had to work in the morning. The brothers also turned down his offer to pay them for their time and mileage.
Finally, House convinced Mike to accept $80 for gas. He also gave the Johnsons some signed cleats and gloves. Chad said Mike was going to give one of the pairs to his stepson, Devin.
“He has autism and football is his life,” Chad said. “He wears size 13 shoes, which is what Davon wears. So Mike’s going to let Devin wear the black cleats for football season this year. … Devin is super excited. You won’t get those shoes off him.”
After making the trek back to Eau Claire – and explaining to his wife what they’d just done – Chad arrived home around 7 a.m. He took a quick shower, threw on a change of clothes and headed in for work. He’s a process engineer who molds medical components.
Meanwhile, Mike actually headed back to the airport. He runs a demolition company that’s currently doing some excavating at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
After getting a couple hours of sleep, House reported to Lambeau Field for OTAs around the same time as the Johnsons were clocking in.
Now a veteran of six NFL seasons, House understands his role in a young cornerbacks room. He wants to lead by example like Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams did before him.
That meant nothing was going to stop House from being at OTAs Tuesday even if he was a little jetlagged.
“It tells you about his commitment – both from our fans and Davon,” McCarthy said before Tuesday's practice. “He knows the importance of it. (Practice) is so limited at this time of the year. And really, outside of Aaron (Rodgers) and maybe a couple other guys, you don't have veteran players that are pre-CBA that clearly understand the importance of nine weeks as opposed to when you had 15 weeks.
“It's important, especially when it's an install day. You never want to miss an install day because you get it going with everyone and the adjustments, and this is the time of year when you can slow things down and teach it in a progression. I think Davon obviously showed the importance of being here.”
House has taken on a greater leadership role since re-signing with the Packers. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt told reporters last week the veteran has been spending time at the team hotel, assisting rookies with the playbook and scheme.
While their introduction came through an unexpected series of events, all three men were all grateful for the experience.
“I told that to Mike on the way back, for Davon House, that was a terrible day,” said Chad, who gets to about three or four home games each season. “But he made memories for two lifelong Packers fans that are going to last a lifetime. Even though there was no sleep, it was the best night I’ve ever had.”
House said he hopes to stay in contact with the two brothers and possibly send them signed jerseys as one final thank you for a safe commute.
It also underscored why House told his agent he wanted to be back in Green Bay after becoming a free agent in March. This is home. It’s where he belongs.
“That’s how faithful our fans are. They’re both owners, so they were proud to take me to work,” House said.
“I took a chance with coming, and it paid (off). The good people who took me, they’ll be friends for sure while I’m here.”