It’s been a long time since a Bucknell football player was drafted into the NFL; 48 years, in fact. But Julie’n Davenport is set to change that and become the first Bucknell football player drafted into the NFL since 1969. The four-year starter at left tackle made an instant-impact at a small Patriot League college but now is looking to take the NFL by storm and make his name known.
Davenport dazzled at the Senior Bowl back in January, where the Bengals reportedly found him interesting. Cincinnati wasn’t the only team intrigued by Davenport’s strength and physicality, as he says he met with at least one representative from all 32 NFL teams. Next up for the small-school stud, who started every game of his college career, is the NFL Combine, where he’s hoping to make a positive impression.
The Bengals drafted two offensive tackles with their first and second round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, but neither have proven to be the players the Bengals hoped they would turn out to be in the NFL. With 11 expected draft picks this year, the Bengals could use a day two or three pick on another offensive lineman, and Davenport could certainly draw the team’s interest as a high-potential prospect. CBS Sports projects Davenport as a fourth round pick and ranks him among the top 15 tackles in the draft.
We spoke with Davenport in his final days of Combine preparation to learn about how he’s preparing for the Draft, what he thinks of Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, how he sets himself apart and much more.
Rebecca Toback: How was the Senior Bowl and getting to be around other top talent heading to the draft?
Julie’n Davenport: It was a great time; I enjoyed being down there and playing against some of the top talent from around the world. I think I did really well for myself.
When I first got down there, there were already constant meetings set up. I met with maybe every single organization, at least a scout, general managers, coaches, and it got me ready. It got me ready for all that’s going to be coming along my way.
RT: How are you preparing for the Combine?
JD: I’ve been training down in Atlanta for the last two months at GATA training facility and working on all the skills and drills I’m going to see come the Combine.
(Editor’s note: Bengals players Shawn Williams and Clint Boling also train at GATA in Atlanta.)
RT: Your size and athletic ability have been highly praised. How do you think that sets you apart?
JD: Size is something you just can’t teach. I’m blessed to have the size and athletic ability I do have. I’m always working just to improve that as well. You don’t see many guys my size who can move as well as I do. So it definitely sets me apart.
(Editor’s note: At the Senior Bowl, Davenport measured in at 6’6” and 310 pounds, with 36-inch arms and an 87.5-inch wingspan, the longest of any player at the Senior Bowl.)
RT: Are there any offensive tackles who you look up to or model your game around?
JD: For the past few years, my favorite player has been (Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle) Tyron Smith. But I’ve pretty much been looking at all the tackles. I’m constantly watching the left tackle, and right tackles, too, and see what they do that I can use to make myself better and improve my game. Joe Thomas. Whitworth from the Bengals. Pretty much everybody.
RT: What does it mean for you to be representing a small school that hasn’t had a player drafted into the NFL since 1969?
JD: It definitely means a lot. They haven’t had this since 1969 and it’s getting a lot of publicity there and should be helpful recruiting to show you can do it no matter where you grow. I’m just trying to show guys I belong in the league. I want to show that a guy from a small school can definitely play in the league.
RT: How do you think coming out of Bucknell helps and hurts you?
JD: Just for myself personally, being at Bucknell has helped me be more independent and do things on my own. My coach has helped me learn the game better, analyze film and get some things done. He gave me some good knowledge that some other guys may not have had with their coaches. My coaches made sure I knew every position, knew what was going on with plays and analyzing defenses to know the sequences coming and pressure before it even happens.
RT: If you were to describe your game to someone who had never seen you play, what would you tell them?
JD: I’m a really good left tackle with great speed and handle my competition.
RT: Are the Bengals a team that interest you? Do you know anything about Andrew Whitworth?
JD: I like the Bengals even though I was a Steelers fan growing up. Whitworth is a real good tackle. He’s definitely someone worth watching. I try to take something from his game to improve mine.
(Editor's note: Davenport attended Paulsboro High School in New Jersey, which is very close to Philadelphia. He also played basketball in high school and received interest to play in college.)
RT: Have you played at a position other than left tackle? Are you open to playing at a different spot on the offensive line in the NFL?
JD: I’m open to playing other positions. I can do anything anyone asks of me. Want me to play tight end or quarterback? I can go do it. I haven’t played anything other than left tackle but I could do whatever’s asked of me.
RT: Is there anything else you want NFL fans to know as the NFL Draft approaches?
JD: This kid from Bucknell can ball, so hopefully you’re not overlooking him. The best is yet to come.