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Marcus Davenport makes unlikely rise and could help Bills' defensive line

MOBILE, Ala. — The name doesn't quite resonate the way others do at the Senior Bowl.

That's a function of Marcus Davenport's school and his position. A University of Texas-San Antonio defensive end doesn't get the same sort of attention as an Oklahoma quarterback (Baker Mayfield) or even a Wyoming QB (Josh Allen).

There's plenty of reason to think that will change in a hurry.

"I think he is probably the player in this game that is not well known, but by the time we get to (the game) Saturday, he's going to be the talk of the game, perhaps," Senior Bowl executive director and former NFL General Manager Phil Savage said.

Some analysts already project that Davenport will be selected in the top 10 of April's NFL draft. New Cleveland Browns General Manager John Dorsey, whose team owns the first and fourth overall choices, spent more than 40 minutes meeting with Davenport Tuesday night.

It's remarkable, considering that his alma mater is hardly viewed as a factory for high-end pro players.

"I'd say I'm blessed to even be here," Davenport, a member of the Senior Bowl's South squad, told reporters. "It wasn't that long ago that this wasn't even a thought on my radar."

Davenport managed to get himself on the radar of the entire NFL with a dominant senior season that saw him register 55 tackles, including 8.5 sacks, and force three fumbles.

He's 6-foot-5 and 259 pounds. He's powerful. He's fast. Few offensive tackles he faced in college have been able to match his strength or quickness. NFL talent-evaluators also like the fact he excelled in a program that employed a variety of defensive fronts.

The Buffalo Bills are among the teams that have tracked Davenport. However, with the 21st and 22nd overall picks, they would figure to be out of range to get him, at least based on where his draft stock currently stands.

That doesn't mean the Bills couldn't do some maneuvering to get in position to select Davenport, who would address a crying need and arguably the second-biggest after quarterback.

He insists he isn't consumed with the spot he's selected, even though it will dictate the amount of his rookie signing bonus. Davenport never forgets his humble beginnings. He says he has a chip on his shoulder.

"I feel like I always have something to prove, but I know I can do it," Davenport said. "There's a big three I try to imitate, all of them, at one point. Calais Campbell's power, J.J. Watt's motor and Von Miller's speed."

Still, Davenport makes no presumptions about his lofty status.

"I don't care where (any of the teams want to) draft me," Davenport said. "I just want to play. Yes, I have to prove myself. I also have to prove a lot more that I didn't necessarily come from a small school, that my competition was legit. It's football, any given Sunday."

Before proving himself to NFL teams, he had plenty to prove to his college coaches. Davenport readily acknowledges that, while UTSA might not have been his first choice to play after high school, "I don't think I was their first choice, either."

It wasn't until late in his junior year that his college coaches began discussing with Davenport the possibility that he could play in the NFL. But they also told him he had a lot of work to do if he intended to make that dream a reality.

The task list went as follows: Gain weight, become more violent in his approach to the game, and improve his overall production.

Davenport took care of the weight-gaining part, adding pounds to the 198-pound frame he had as a freshman with an eating schedule that included midnight snacks of brisket.

"It was more like see food, eat food," he said. "Any time I had to think about food, I actually just ate. I'd get one meal for now, one meal for later and end up eating them both (at the same time).

"I like to believe I'm violent, especially with my hands, and I feel I have made (the UTSA coaches) proud of my approach. But I feel there's still another level I can take it to."

Davenport doesn't hesitate to share his own critical analysis of his game. When he watches video, he sees the need to do a better job of getting off blocks and keeping a lower pad level.

His best attribute?

"My work ethic," Davenport said. "I love this game and I love what I can do, so I just want to get better and be able to do that."

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