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Davon House wanted to return to the Green Bay Packers.
He wished. He hoped. He prayed.
After being on the free-agent market for a week following his release by the Jaguars, he didn’t think it was going to happen. The Packers needed cornerback help but, apparently, the Packers didn’t need it from House. So, he hopped on a plane for Pittsburgh, figuring he was going to sign with the Steelers.
“I didn’t think Green Bay was that interested after a while,” House said at the airport in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “I really thought I was going to go to Pittsburgh.”
Pittsburgh would have been a fine landing spot for House. The Steelers are perennial championship contenders with a great quarterback, improving defense and respected coach.
“I felt like all they were missing is a piece like me to take the next step,” House said.
But House’s heart was in Green Bay. Returning to the Packers, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2011, was House’s “ultimate goal.” Finally, with House in Pittsburgh, Green Bay made its pitch, offering House the one-year contract he coveted so he could hit free agency next year at age 28.
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“I wanted to do a prove-it deal. Why not at my old team that I missed?” House said. “I’m not going to say I shouldn’t have left (in free agency in 2015) but I missed it ever since I left. They’re the team that drafted me, so I’m always going to have love there. It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep had I passed up the opportunity to come to Green Bay and play in the green and gold again.”
After starting 14 games in four seasons with the Packers, House jumped on a four-year, $24.5 million contract from the Jaguars. He was worth every penny during his first season there. He intercepted four passes and finished third in the NFL with a franchise-record 23 passes defensed.
For House, it was validation after being unable to supplant Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward on the depth chart.
“It was big for me. It was big because it was my first time really starting full-time,” he said. “It was very important for me to go out there and show the world that I’m not just some scrub backup that played behind a future Hall of Famer (Charles Woodson), a future Green Bay Hall of Famer (Tramon Williams) and a great corner in Sam Shields, who I was behind my whole four years there. So I go to Jacksonville and I really played at a very high level — I would say Pro Bowl, All-Pro level. Out of 102 footballs thrown my way, only 51 were caught, which is pretty darned good, with four picks and 23 pass breakups. It was the highlight of my career putting up those numbers. It was good, because it was in a scheme that I liked.”
That scheme allowed House to do what he does best: press coverage. However, the Jaguars changed defensive coordinators for the 2016 season. Press coverage wasn’t part of the plan. House’s play suffered.
Of his 272 defensive snaps, 188 came in the first three games and 218 came in the first four. Over the final 12 games, House played 54 snaps on defense — never more than 15 in a game. After getting his hands on 23 passes in 2015, he got his hands on zero in 2016.
House asked to be traded or released. The Jaguars shopped House before electing to release him on March 6.
House’s prayers were answered. As great as he was in 2015, he’s hoping to be even better in 2017.
“That’s why I wanted a one-year, prove-it deal,” he said. “After one year, it should be interesting to see what happens. I had four picks; I’ve got to get five picks. I had 23 pass breakups; I’ve got to get 24. That’s just the way I think. I think it’s possible, for sure.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.