Julién Davenport lived out a dream when he started on Christmas Day last year for the Houston Texans against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the offensive tackle grew up in Paulsboro, about 15 miles from Philly, he did not become an Eagles fan. Instead, he rooted for the Steelers.
That doesn’t make Sunday’s game against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field any less special for the mammoth tackle, who finally gets to play an NFL game in front of those who have followed him since the beginning.
“I’m going to have a bunch of family and friends. It’s going to be a lot of people at the game, probably over 20-plus," Davenport said. ”So it’s going to mean a lot to go out there and basically have one of my best games I’ve had, in the area I grew up in."
Paulsboro High School, where the 6-foot-7, 320-pounder played football and basketball, has a rich sports history. The area is known for its wrestling, football, and basketball, with recent NFL talent such as Anthony Averett of the Baltimore Ravens and Corey Clement of the Eagles also having played in Gloucester County. Davenport remembers the dog days of facing the Averett-led Woodbury and Clement-led Glassboro teams, considering them the highlights of his high school career.
“My town is really known for their sports,” said Davenport, who was an All-South Jersey selection in football and All-Group 1 in basketball. “Just growing up, it was taken seriously. You know a lot of winners throughout the years in the history of Paulsboro football. so it was big-time.”
Living in South Jersey, Davenport often ran out of things to do. He remembers his older brother, Ernest Davenport, initiating frequent trips across the bridge. When they visited Philadelphia, Ernest chauffeured his brother down South Street, stopping to shop and eat.
“He absolutely loved Philly,” Julién Davenport said. “I don’t know too many names of places like he does because I was more so following his lead, but I enjoyed a lot of places we [went].”
Davenport went on to play left tackle for Bucknell, before being drafted by the Texans early in the fourth round (130th overall) in 2017. As a first-year starter, Davenport struggled earlier this season protecting quarterback DeShaun Watson’s right side. He was benched for the team’s Week 4 win over the Colts and played only seven snaps after racking up a team-high eight penalties, including five for false starts, in three games.
When he returned to the starting lineup the next week, he was moved back to the left side, his more natural position. Now that he has spent the last 10 weeks covering Watson’s blind spot, he says he has more of a grasp of his role on the team.
“It’s had its ups and downs," Davenport said of his season, "but overall, it’s been a good year. Excited to be playing and being a part of this team and the things we’ve accomplished, and still have to accomplish is way ahead of us. We’re just going to keep on grinding. I’m loving it. I hope I have more starting seasons in my career.”
Coach Bill O’Brien says Davenport has been working all season to improve his technique to be more effective in the running and passing game. Tuesday, he spoke highly of Davenport’s development throughout this season and the responsibility he has given the offensive tackle in his second year in the league.
“Jules has a very business-like approach to his every day,” O’Brien said. “He really works to get better every day. He has worked really hard in the weight room to get stronger. ... He has improved. There’s always areas and ways he can improve, but he has done a good job.”