Go back no further than Super Bowl XLV in North Texas on Feb. 6, when Green Bay was clinging to an 11-point lead to start the second half with all-world cornerback Charles Woodson and rookie nickel back sensation Sam Shields out of the game. Every Packers fan at Cowboys Stadium sucked in their breath at the same time, creating the world's largest vacuum as reserves Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee took the field.
Shields returned briefly, Woodson did not, and Bush and Lee did their part to help secure the victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. But on pro football's biggest stage, the importance of cornerback depth was underlined in thick, black marker. So, after going on the offensive through the first three rounds of the draft, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers was all smiles with the addition of 6-foot, 200-pound New Mexico State cornerback Davon House.
"We like his skill-set," Capers said. "He's one of those guys that has the height, weight and speed that we look for. And as we know, we've experienced as late as the Super Bowl, that you can't ever have enough corner-type guys who can go out and cover. So much of what we do on defense is based on our coverage ability at the corner position to where you don't have to back a guy up all the time. We were very fortunate to have a guy like Sam Shields surface and play close to 800 plays for us this last year. And we think Davon has the type of skill-set that we look for at the corner position."
House ran a slower-than-expected 4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but uncapped a 4.35 on his best run at his pro day a month later. That speed helped him notch 11 interceptions during a four-year career with the Aggies in which he started 43 of 49 games, including the final 31. He also deflected 37 passes, rarely letting receivers in the pass-happy Western Athletic Conference get separation down the sideline. House set New Mexico State's all-time record with 319 yards on interceptions returns, scoring three times, and was the NCAA's third-active career leader in interception return yardage.
With a nose for the ball and a knack for press coverage, it's easy to see why one of the NFL cornerbacks that House admires most is Green Bay's own Tramon Williams.
"I remember him signing his deal, for like a $33 million deal or something like that, he was a free agent, and I started watching him and saw he was from Louisiana Tech, which is a small-conference school like mine and we're both in the WAC right now, too, and I just watched him all last year and what he does is amazing," an excited House explained. "He's a ballhawk and that's what I feel like I believe I am, a ballhawk, too."
House was a late bloomer on the gridiron. He focused exclusively on baseball before stepping on the football field for the first time as a high school junior at Palmdale (Cal.) High School, playing flanker before switching to cornerback his senior year. It was his older brother, Tyreace, who encouraged him to play -- though it's worth noting that Tyreace is playing center field for the Oakland A's Class AA farm team in Iowa. That said, House, who also played center field, said he's given no thought to a baseball career if football doesn't work out.
"Football's going to work out," he said confidently.
House was thrust into the starting lineup just four games into his freshman year with the Aggies and led them with eight pass deflections and four picks, setting a school record with 171 return yards. As a sophomore, he started all 11 games as the Aggies led the WAC and finished third in the nation in allowing an average of just 159.42 yards per game to opposing passers.
The following year, Dewayne Walker took over the head coaching reins. A former NFL defensive backs coach with the Giants and Patriots, he saw the size, physicality and raw ability in House and over the next two seasons did some "home improvements" that transformed him into an NFL-ready cornerback.
"He's grown so much in two years and he has so much more room," Walker told Packer Report leading up to the draft. "Obviously, he's an untapped talent. For him to be able to put himself in this situation, and if he continues to improve and grow, he has a chance to have a successful career.
"His professionalism (has improved). He had more of a sense of urgency, understanding that the next level is going to be a challenging step. It's a different ballgame. It's a profession. It's a job. When that day comes, when he walks into that first meeting and that first practice, he'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect."
To hear House talk, he didn't really even understand the position – or at least understand all the nuances of how to play it -- until he started working with Walker.
"He's been teaching me a lot and I wish I would've had more time with him because I only had really a year and a half of playing real cornerback and learning technique and learning about scheme and learning what real football is about," House said.
"Before I was out there just playing around and covering guys and learning how to back pedal, and Dewayne got there and I learned how to press right. I feel like Green Bay got a big steal with me because I have a lot of upside to me, I'm a big corner, I still have a lot of room to improve."
After being the lone bright spot on a 2-10 Aggies team last year, one thing that will definitely improve for House will be his win total. Capers and Packers cornerback coach Joe Whitt Jr. will work on House's contribution to that.