Texas-San Antonio Head Coach Frank WilsonConference Call With New Orleans MediaFriday, April 27, 2018
What makes Marcus (Davenport) so special? What has he done for you and how has he kind of grown to where he is now?
"I think the thing that makes him so special is the ability to have a diverse ability to rush the quarterback at a very high level consistently. And from a run game perspective to support the run to him and having enough girth and fortitude to hold the point steady when it's coming towards him. And then when running away from him, having the tenacity and the want to to go run it down from behind."
What areas do you think he's got to fine tune at this level?
"I think he will continue to mature. I think he's a guy that's right at about 265 right now. He can hold about 275 he'll continue to get bigger and allow himself to be that much more stronger to handle the offensive linemen that he will meet on week to week basis in the National Football League. I believe when you ask him he'd say, "I'm a work in progress and there's not a point in my game where I think I've arrived. I want to grow." That's the beautiful thing about him. He's not entitled. He's not a young man that thinks he's got it all figured out. He's very talented. He's a very gifted player and he wants to improve himself to be the best that he can be."
When you first met him, how did you discover just how coachable he was?
"Just his natural disposition. He was actually there the day of my press conference (introduction as head coach). His father came in after the press conference and introduced himself. And we realized we had a lot of—or knew a lot of the same people or had a lot of the same people in common (growing up in New Orleans). And so, at that point that kind of opened the door for a conversation piece and when I got to the office I had a chance to look at the roster and then started watching film and knew he was a talented player. (I) Called those guys in one by one, and all he said was, he didn't say these words, I'm kind of paraphrasing but in his conversation to me, "Coach get with that, I want to be a great player". And so that's a coach's dream when a player says those words to you. And that's what he went about himself doing, to better himself everyday on the practice field and in the meeting room."
When you got there how long did it take you to recognize that you had an NFL first round talent on your team and in your program?
"Eventually that same year when I got here, he was only about 218 pounds—(215) pounds, somewhere in that range. He played that season of September at about 230. And then his senior year he played at about 260 plus. So he kind of takes this effort to do the things that needed to be done to get where he wanted to be and that was in the position to be an NFL draft pick. And a lot of people talk about it but he put in the work to position himself to do so. It was a maturation process, physically, mentally that put him in the position to do so. But going into his senior year, we kind of figured, this guy's different."
Do you think he can play with his hand in the dirt? We know he stood up a lot for you guys.
"He did it his whole career. His first two years he did it quite often. And he did it quite a lot of times for us this year as well. So he has the diversity and ability to do both, to put his hand down and be in a two-point stance. In his junior year more specifically he was in a two-point stance because we played him in a six and we played a backer on the outside where they had the deep gap for the responsibility. But when we put him at the matchup, he put it down and he got to the point of just being an analytical guy and recognized "I don't want to give off a tendency and so I'll stand with my hands up or I will stand in a two-point stance and still get the—generate the power that I like to rush." And so he played the one end pass ability in a two-point stance. And that's when you recognize everything that you do for d-line play from stage to explosion, three-point explosion hits, you do on a three-point stance. He did it every day in practice, even if he didn't do it in the game. So I think he'll be able to do it."
I read somewhere that Marcus reads a lot. Did you ever notice that to be like something about him?
"Not really, that does not affect a football player what he did for his hobby with his reading. It never was an issue with football. I'm a real avid reader so we share thoughts and whether it's Othello or Macbeth and I tease him a little bit about I am deeper than you are. That was always a nice little time in getting to know one another and spend quality time off the field. But it was never—a connection in football persay than us growing our relationship it came up."
Are there any other quirky things that you remember about him?
"I don't think it's quirky at all. I have no problem with a guy who reads."
What's different probably is how a lot of people that are young today are glued to things like video games....
That is the unfortunate thing. That is why you always try to protect the shield. Because unfortunately guys do other things. I think he is a guy that has his head on straight. He is totally focused and driven on the goals he has set for himself. I think he is a good teammate. I think he's a real guy in the locker room and on the practice field, it's not like he brings a book in the locker room or during meetings and start reading. When it's football, he's all football all the way through."
Do you guys have books in common that you'd talk about? Any examples? Or do you read different stuff?
"Yeah, different stuff."
A lot of people would say he had a great last year, Conference USA and the Southeastern Conference for example even, which is a good topic for you since you've coached in both conferences. What do you kind of say to that?
"I would say, that I've been fortunate enough to think I have the ability to have a deciding mind to be able to project with my eyes closed and see players at high school and collegiate levels because I have done it the last 20 years. And he is as talented as any of those guys. His work ethic is as good as any of those guys and telling them and when they called me from Mobile, my response to them was line them up against him. Take the best offensive lineman you have and have at it. And find out. It was the same when he went to the combine, line him up in front of him, see what he is about. Or when they had him at his individual workouts, test his wherewithal, take him through it, bring him all the way there and back and let's see how he responds. The beautiful thing is the New Orleans Saints organization did those things and they did the in-depth research to see that he was the guy that was serious about football and checked those boxes. I think there is more to playing in the SEC, of course I coached in it a very long time but I also would like to see those same guys that I coached there or recruited there in comparison, he's there with what they were and some in my humble opinion."
Did you reach out to Ryan Nielsen? Did he reach out to you to ask about him? Who put who on each other's radar?
"Prior to talking to Ryan, I really talked to Mr. Loomis and the assistant GM (Jeff Ireland) and the coaching staff, and eventually…I didn't talk to Ryan in-depth until most recently. I never knew the Saints were in position to get him they kept that close to the vest. It was casual conversation as I would have with any other staff so I was as shocked as he was when they drafted him because they never showed their hands. They were very discreet in their preparation and their draft art. I'm not sure if I reached out. I talk to Ryan all the time so I don't know if I called him or if he called me."
Around this time of year, so many people love comparisons of players to others whether they're in the NFL now or in the past, is there any guy that he reminds you of, maybe both physically and the way he plays?
"I think the two guys most recently, Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney are the guys in size and stature and yet in athleticism. He's a very explosive young man. He's 265 or whatever and ran 4.58, 4.59. He has great feet, former basketball player, an athlete. So agile, mobile. So from an athleticism standpoint, he puts me in the mind of those two guys."