By CHRIS CHRISTOPHER
Lamar Davenport is back home.
And the former Asbury Park High School football player is glad he’s back. The ex-Monmouth University standout is in his first season of coaching the Blue Bishops’ wide receivers and defensive backs.
“I love everything about coaching,” he said. “I am having a blast as I am able to be around these young kids and help them in any way I can. I am teaching them some things about the game. And I am trying to help them off the field as well. It has been a blast.”
Tim Fosque, the Blue Bishops’ first-year head coach, said he enjoys having Davenport on his staff.
“He has been a blessing,” Fosque said. “Each time I mention Lamar’s name, it brings such great joy to my face and my feelings. Just to have him be a part of this football program … He is such a great individual and an inspiration for the players on our team. He is the kind of player I want this program to be about.”
Davenport, 23, is not much older than the players he coaches.
“He is so close to their generation,” Fosque said. “He and his players come from similar plights. In some regards, he has had more difficult obstacles to overcome. That is more of a reality case for our players. They see someone who is just like themselves. They see how he has gone to the next level on a college scholarship. Lamar is a breath of fresh air. He’s a big light that really shines down on this program. I am fortunate to be in a situation where someone like him is available to be a part of our staff.
“We knew what kind of an individual he was in high school and he wanted to come back here to coach. We knew he wanted to give back to Asbury Park High School football. When I was interviewed for this job, I made it clear I wanted to bring in new fresh talent to motivate the players.”
Davenport works with senior wide receiver Jaedon Stephens, junior wide receiver Dyquan Young and senior defensive back Trevor Sanders.
“Stephens is a great kid,” Davenport said. “First and foremost, he works extremely hard. During the whole summer, he went to a lot of speed camps. He wants to soak up everything I tell him. You tell him one thing and he goes out and executes it on the next play.” He’s just a great all-around kid.
“Young has not had a lot of balls thrown his way, but he blocks real hard. He just does all of the little things you look for in a player. He plays really hard, blocks really well and is a big part of the team.”
Sanders is a three-year varsity starter.
“He is kind of our leader in the secondary,” Davenport said. “He knows what the staff is looking for. He keeps our guys calm and makes sure everyone is in the right position. He is a real smart football player.”
Fosque said Davenport is valuable in imparting strategy and fundamentals to the Blue Bishops.
“He has been instrumental in developing some of our younger guys,” Fosque said. “He brought us new skill sets and drills as he comes from a college system. He inspires our athletes and contributes in the staff’s boardroom as we go into game readiness and game preparation on both sides of the ball. He contributed right away on the offensive side of the ball in our meeting room in terms of us putting in different plays. He made our offensive system that much more efficient.”
Davenport, who played on the Blue Bishops’ 2007, 2008 and 2009 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship teams coached by the majority of the Blue Bishops’ coaches, often recalls his youth while coaching.
“I do flash back,” the 2010 graduate said. “Each time I am out there, it feels like it was just yesterday when I was doing the same things these guys are doing in terms of coming to school and practice. It’s weird to think back to how I was in high school. Time flies by.”
With the help of Asbury Park guidance counselor Barbara Paskin and Blue Bishops quarterback Will Johnson, Davenport chose Monmouth over Montclair State University.
“Will was at Monmouth and we were high school teammates,” Davenport said. “He told me good things about Monmouth. I got to meet coach Callahan (Monmouth coach Kevin) and his staff and I felt Monmouth was the best place for me to go.”
Davenport said Paskin guided him to a program called Equal Opportunity Funds.
“It’s a program at Monmouth that helps students pay for school,” he said. “Kids get a lot of support and counseling through it. It’s a great program.”
Davenport played four seasons for the Hawks. He appeared in 11 games last year, catching 22 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 10.7 yards per catch and 21.5 yards per game. One catch was for 27 yards.
He was second on the team in catches in 2013 with 25 catches for 348 yards and three TDs 12 games. He averaged 13.9 yards per grab and 29,0 yards per game.
The former Hawks star sparkled in 2012, hauling in 37 passes for second on the team in 10 games. He scored two touchdowns and gained 347 yards, averaging 9.7 yards per catch and 34.7 yards per outing. He appeared in four games in 2011 after red shirting as a freshman and caught 10 passes for 131 yards, averaging 13.1 yards per catch and 32.8 yards per game.
“I enjoyed playing for Monmouth to be quite honest,” he said. “I think I got everything out of playing there that I imagined. I went to great places like Montana and got on my first plane ride ever. Personally, I loved my Monmouth experience. It was a smaller campus and their professors knew you on a first-name basis. That is my learning style. I felt I had all the support I needed. It was great for me.”
Davenport said he did not mind being red shirted.
“I was red shirted just to get used to the college game,” he said. “I was about 159 pounds–maybe–soaking wet. I was pretty small so the extra year gave me time to learn the game, adjust to college life, learn the playbook and get ready to roll. Kids who are ready to go and are mature physically don’t like red shirting, but it only helped me. I wanted to play, of course, but it worked out for the long run.”
Callahan said Davenport was a key wide receiver.
“He was part of a group of receivers who had been around for a long time,” Callahan said. “He played a significant number of plays. His seniority and leadership are what I will miss.”
Davenport often came up big in clutch situations.
“He was a key third down receiver,” Callahan said. “He was one of the guys who I feel grew into his role. As a freshman, he was a little bit lost. He did not know how to be a Division I football player. He learned from the guys who were here in front of him and gave us great leadership. Among last year’s group, he was the guy the young players really looked up to. He did anything we asked of him.”
Callahan said he discovered Davenport during his senior year with the Blue Bishops.
“As we saw on video, he was very talented,” Callahan said. “He had a lot of skill.”
Davenport was an athletic player for the Hawks.
“He had a knack for making the very difficult catch,” Callahan said. “He had tremendous body control. It did not matter if the ball was thrown high or low.”
“Catching balls in traffic was a want to thing,” Davenport said. “I was going to get hit anyway so I may as well come down with the ball. If you are going to get hit, you may was well go through a war to catch the ball.”
Davenport was confident of a successful career in the Hawks’ uniform.
“I always thought to myself that I could play no matter the level as long as I worked hard and took coaching well,” he said. “I had great coaches and was pretty prepared to play.”
Davenport graduated in January with a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice. It was an emotional walk down the aisle as several family members and friends attended the ceremony.
“It’s definitely the best thing that has happened to me,” he said. “There were ups and downs and to finally get to that point. … I had a lot of ups and downs. I had to juggle school and football.”
“I am not surprised at Lamar,” Callahan said. “I was very happy with how his days at Monmouth ended. He got his degree in 4 1/2 years. He had to work very hard to get it. It was a proud moment for me to see him walk down that aisle.”
These days, Davenport sees himself as a role model.
“I am someone kids can look at,” he said. “I grew up in the same places and made some mistakes, but I was able to learn from them. I can still be something. As long as I can help a few of the kids, I feel I did my job. I want to help kids in the same ways people helped me. That’s all.”
A prospective law enforcement officer, Davenport sees himself as a “big brother” with his players.
“I come in when I see fit and pull kids aside,” he said. “I was not real receptive as a player to yelling and screaming. I let the players know what they are doing wrong and what I feel they can do better. On game day, it’s a different story. I am more of a yeller.”
“He is a very laid back coach who commands attention from his players,” Fosque said. “There is a seriousness in his demeanor that resonates through the kids. There is a strength in his soft coaching style as there is an urgency when he speaks. He has been through some trials and tribulations. Our players go through trials and tribulations right to this day.”
Davenport said other people inspired him to enter the coaching ranks.
“When I think about my role models, they were my coaches from Pop Warner to high school to college who helped me become a better person in general,” he said. “I love the game of football. I want to be around it. I want to help the kids the way I was helped. In football, you learn a lot of life’s lessons about discipline and ups and downs. You just have to keep going through them. If you do so, you will be OK. You learn about being accountable and about working with others. I try to teach the players those things.”
Davenport offered advice for young players.
“Of course,” he said, “it’s school first. You will go through ups and downs, but don’t let that deter you or stop you fro