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Davenport Steps Onto Different Stage


This fall, Najeh Davenport has dreams of a star-studded season on the gridiron. But come September, the football field isn't the only place you can see the Packers halfback.

You'll also be able to find him in movie theatres nationwide.

Amidst an offseason of conditioning, the 24-year-old with a bachelor's degree in theatre from the University of Miami spent a week in Los Angeles to take part in his first feature film, Blood Money.

An action movie starring rapper-actors Busta Rhymes and 50 Cent, Blood Money tells the story of Joshua Pope (Busta Rhymes), who returns home after his father's death to claim his inheritance, only to find that a crooked cop controls the streets.

When Pope is leaned on by the law, he decides to fight back with the help of some friends, and a turf battle unfolds.

Davenport plays a nightclub owner caught amidst the madness. Although a smaller role, it's a speaking part that could have Davenport in as many as four scenes, depending on edits.

"At first I was supposed to take another part, as one of Busta Rhymes' gang members," Davenport explained from Packers mini-camp last week. "But there was a scheduling conflict, so I got to take this part.

"I was in one scene with Busta, but I think it's going to get cut, because people weren't clear what was happening in the scene."

Davenport was alerted to the project by his agent, who knew that the dreadlocked athlete wanted to put his college degree to good use.

While at Miami, Davenport said he acted in classes as his course work required, but worked offstage when it came to school plays.

"I never auditioned for our school plays because I knew I would have gotten it hard from my teammates," Davenport said. "Plus, most of the plays they did in college really didn't interest me."

Movies did however, and prior to his rookie season, Davenport would have appeared in an Eddie Griffin feature if not for Packers training camp, which occurred in unison with the shoot.

When Blood Money became a possibility after the season, Davenport immediately performed a test reading on video and mailed it in. Shortly thereafter, he found himself in L.A., arriving on the movie set at 8 a.m., for what was generally an arduous process of hurry up and wait.

"Everyone was very nice, but movie sets can be rough," Davenport said. "You get there early for costume and makeup, but then you have to wait around for them to be ready to shoot your scene.

"It's just a lot of waiting around without a purpose. Training camp is a long process too, but at least you're always working toward something."

At first, when Davenport met his fellow actors, he was the student asking questions. But after learning of Davenport's day job as an NFL player, interviews often changed direction.

"At first they would ask what it was like to play for the Packers," Davenport said. "Then they would ask about Brett Favre, wanting to know if he was as cool in real life as he seems on TV.

"Everyone always wanted to know about Brett Favre."

While football remains Davenport's first love, he plans to continue pursuing movie roles. He's been offered a role in Barbershop 2, which begins filming in Chicago in July, but might have to turn it down based on the training camp schedule.

Davenport's hope is that he can someday latch on to a film that begins shooting in early February, allowing him the time to take a larger role.

A fan of fantasy-adventures like the Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings installments, Davenport said he'd love to have a major part in a blockbuster, but for now he's elated just to see his film debut hit the silver screen.

"I went to the movies last week and I saw the sheriff from my movie on screen," Davenport said. "It was exciting. It made me think, 'I'm next.'"

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