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Jeffrey Davenport Plays With Heart & Soul

05/08/08
This year’s Spirit of Troy award winner was the band’s unanimous choice.
By Steve McDonagh
Davenport, who played trumpet for the Trojan Marching Band, is an aspiring sportswriter.

Photo/Dietmar Quistorf
After seven orthopedic surgeries, Jeffrey Davenport will be walking with his classmates at Commencement.

The 22-year old Santa Monica native will be graduating with a double major in German and print journalism, hoping to become a sportswriter. Despite being born with cerebral palsy, which causes his legs to constantly tighten up, he considers himself a lucky man.

Cerebral palsy, which is a one-time shock to the brain around the time of birth, can range from mild to severe, Davenport said. “I was very lucky that my case was mild and am very thankful that I can still walk and participate in most things.”

He’s done much more than participate. He has excelled. During his four years at the university, he has played trumpet for the USC Trojan Marching Band. This spring, the band’s student leadership voted for him to receive the Spirit of Troy, an honor given to the group’s most inspirational member. The vote, according to band director Arthur Bartner, was unanimous.

“I was moved,” Bartner said. “What a great kid! He is a true Trojan. Even if he couldn’t do everything physically, he found a way to do it. He marched every game, coming in the stadium behind the band. He went on every trip. For four years, he played every note.

“His heart was right there.”

According to Davenport, “Once you’ve experienced the Trojan Marching Band, there’s nothing like it.”

He has played the trumpet since the fourth grade and was in the band all through high school, where he was drum major his last two years and conducted the field shows at football games and competitions. At USC, although he was not able to march in formations on the field, he played from the stands or the field. “Band was and still is a really important thing in my life,” he said.

Davenport’s personal highlights from his tenure with the band included a trip to Miami, where USC defeated Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, and the infamous “Bush Push” game against Notre Dame later that year, when he, like many others, couldn’t see quarterback Matt Leinart score the winning touchdown and had to judge the end of the game by the reactions of band members who were in front of him.

Because of his disability, Davenport has never been able to participate in sports the way he would have liked. This has made him a bigger sports fan, prompting him to pursue his goal of becoming a sportswriter so he can be close to the action and experience what he hasn’t been able to do himself. He hasn’t missed out entirely, though. “I’m a really good basketball shooter,” he said.

“Although I have cerebral palsy, I have always tried to fit in and do anything that I can,” Davenport said. “I don’t worry about what I can’t do, I just try my best. It’s something that you learn to cope with and make the best of. You can’t let it keep you down.”

With his studies at USC coming to an end, Davenport is both excited and nervous about graduating and has the strong feeling that it has “all gone by way too fast.” But he’s secure in the fact that he’ll always have a family with the school and with the band.

“They don’t lie when they say you’re a Trojan for life,” he said, “especially with the band.”

For all the stories on this year's Commencement, click here.