By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – When Dominique Davenport was an assistant coach at Mercer, he oversaw the cornerbacks, while fellow Bears coach Tre Lamb worked with the quarterbacks on the offensive side of the ball.
As Lamb joined the Tennessee Tech staff as the Golden Eagles' offensive coordinator, Davenport's efforts impressed Lamb and head coach Dewayne Alexander, giving Davenport a new opportunity as he will oversee Tech's running backs.
"Just being around Coach Alexander and getting to meet the players and see the city of Cookeville, I'm excited," Davenport said. "This place has a lot of potential and that's our job to unlock that potential."
Plus the opportunity to get reunited with Lamb is an added bonus.
"He is a brilliant offensive mind," Davenport said. "That's why when I had the opportunity to come with him as he made the next step in his journey, it was a no-brainer to come on and work with him. I worked with him at Mercer – he knows what he's doing. He played the position and he knows offense."
It will be a little bit of a change of responsibilities – switching from the defensive side of the ball to the offensive side – but Davenport is ready to take to the task head on.
"The first thing I've found out is that we have a pretty good running back group here," Davenport said, referencing Yeedee Thaenrat and Andrew Goldsmith. "My job is to give them what they need and coach them hard and let them do what they need to do. I'm going to make sure they understand what they've got. We're going to come in with a new offensive style that's really going to suit them. For me, ballers ball. Coaching on the defensive side, it's going to help me with some of the game-planning and get into the minds of the defense."
Alexander said, "He's played those positions in high school. He had an excellent playing career at Coastal Carolina. He has excellent recruiting connections in the South Georgia area, and he comes highly recommended by (Mercer head coach) Bobby Lamb and Tre has worked side-by-side with this guy for the past several seasons.
"It's someone Tre felt really good about, so I talked with him, spent some time with him and he has the things we're looking for – good relationships with players, in it for the right reasons, in it to develop young men. If that doesn't come out of their mouths -- and I don't bait them for that and I like them to bring that up and that was the first thing he said."
Alexander continued, "I was very impressed with him. It was important to have someone on Tre's side of the ball that he knew, trusted and recommended highly. I think he brings some good energy to the position and some great knowledge in recruiting and those areas. He's done a lot of film breakdown and the things you're looking for. He's going to be a tremendous addition to our staff."
And to be a part of Alexander's staff at Tech is an amazing prospect considering all the names that are on the list.
"I've gotten to know these guys and I think the energy is going to be high," Davenport said. "I think we're going to coach them the right way and coach them hard. It's just the beginning. There's really a positive energy going on right here."
Davenport spent five years at Coastal Carolina from 2006 to 2010, starting three years at safety from 2008 to 2010. He was a first-team All-Big South Conference selection as a senior and was on CCU's 2006 and 2010 BSC championship teams. During his sophomore campaign, Davenport set the Chanticleers' school record for tackles in a single game with 20 against Colgate in 2008. He finished third in CCU's career tackles list and fifth in career interceptions.
Following his graduation in December 2010 with a bachelor's degree in history, Davenport started his coaching career at First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., as the team's assistant defensive backs coach. While there, he helped guide the team to a Florida 7-A state runner-up performance with a program-best 13-1 record. He oversaw defensive backs that went to Florida State, Central Florida, Rutgers, South Florida and Elon.
After that season, Davenport joined the staff of a Mercer team that was restarting its program after an absence since nearly the World War II era. He coached the safeties for the Bears the first two seasons, including a 10-2 record in 2013 – an NCAA record for wins for a team in its inaugural season.
There's no question that Davenport would love to bring that same momentum to Cookeville.
"We started out young and had to build it from the ground up," he said. "You just realize that it is a process. You don't start and just win. You've got to start from the foundation and work your way up by building your culture and the way your team is going to run. Once you get that in place, it's a well-oiled machine."
In 2015 to the most recent season, Davenport oversaw the cornerbacks, helping develop Eric Jackson (Southern Conference All-Freshman 2016), Stephen Houzah (SoCon All-Freshman 2015) and Alex Avant (All-SoCon second team 2014).
"One thing I've learned is that football is bigger than the game itself," Davenport said. "It teaches about life. The main thing I want to do is be a good mentor to the players I'm coaching and the other players on the team. I realize that this game is about relationships. When you build that trust off the field, it's going to be there on the field. My coaching experience – you've got to coach them hard. That doesn't mean you don't care for them, you've got to build that trust.
"Another thing is nothing's given. You have to work for it. That's our job – come in here and work hard and go for that championship. We're going to get that thing going."
Photo provided by Mercer Athletics