shiny happy fan
Join Date: Apr 2004
By Nick Schenck
(real player link)
Travis Johnson took a glimpse of Reliant Stadium. Then, moments later, glanced at it again. Less than a week after being chosen by the Texans with the 16 th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Johnson had trouble believing he was in Houston rather than Tallahassee, Fla., where he played defensive tackle at Florida St.
“For a second there, I looked and it was like, ‘Man, it’s not Doak Campbell (Stadium) I’m looking at and this is not the (Florida St.) practice field,’” Johnson said after his first mini-camp practice. “It’s different, but I’m happy. I’m enjoying it so far.”
Johnson joined the Texans’ five other draft picks as well as 11 rookie free agents, 10 free agents trying out for a contract and three other players with no NFL experience on the football field Friday for the beginning of the team’s two-day rookie mini-camp.
In all, there will be four practices. Coaches will use the training and meeting time to introduce the players to the Texans’ system and monitor their progress. The first-day jitters were evident, as players tried to digest all of the information thrown at them, but head coach Dom Capers expected that much.
“They know the evaluation process has started,” Capers said. “They want to make a good first impression. It’s all brand new to them. It’s like when they went in and started in college. So it’s a new experience. They’ll settle down. You’ll see them become a little bit more relaxed as the weekend goes on.
With so few players in attendance and so many coaches on the Texans’ staff, the ratio is almost equal. Fourth-round pick Jerome Mathis, a wide receiver from Division I-AA Hampton University in Virginia , has had to adjust to the many coaches critiquing him at once. Nevertheless, he knows it will help him in the future.
“It’s very different,” Mathis said after his first practice with the Texans. “You get a lot more attention. There’s someone telling you that you messed up every time and you kind of get frustrated. But once I learn the system it’ll be (easier).”
After his initial shock of being there, Johnson demonstrated what made him the Texans’ top overall draft choice. New defensive line coach Mike London ran his players through a variety of agility drills, and Johnson, at 6-3, 305 pounds, led the pack with his rare combination of quickness and power.
“Travis has the height, weight and speed that we look for,” Capers said. “We certainly liked his intensity and the passion he has for the game. You have to have that up front…So it’ll be interesting to see how fast Travis picks up the system because we certainly think he has the ability to add to our football team.”
Running back Vernand Morency, the Texans’ third-round choice, made his much-anticipated debut. Athleticism shouldn’t be a problem for the former baseball player. He displayed the shiftiness and burst of speed that had him projected to be as high as a first-round draft pick last weekend.
Morency knows it will be an uphill battle to pass Domanick Davis, Tony Hollings and Jonathan Wells on the depth chart, but he’s prepared for the competition.
“I always welcome challenges,” Morency said. “I can’t wait until the veterans come out. I’m learning every day, just trying to grasp the offense, get a feel for the offensive line and have fun out here.”
Aside from the Texans’ draft picks, two of the biggest names at the mini-camp are former San Diego State wide receiver Devon Pitts, an undrafted free agent and brother of starting guard Chester Pitts, as well as former Texas standout Chance Mock, who is one of three quarterbacks auditioning for a contract with the team.
For having little experience with the Texans’ offense, Mock displayed some of the quick-thinking and leadership skills that he was noted for in Austin . Capers liked what he saw from the young signal-caller from The Woodlands.
“Chance jumped in and one thing you can tell is he’s a smart guy,” Capers said. “To be a quarterback and come out here and to be able to call the plays and formations, you can tell that Chance has been in a good program and he’s smart.”
When practice ended, Capers gathered the rookie class together. With the players’ undivided attention, he outlined the rest of the day’s events and voiced his encouragement. For many of the rookies, it was the first time they’d heard Capers’ post-practice speech. It surely won’t be the last time.
“It is special,” Johnson said, reflecting on his first practice. “It’s a start of a new chapter for me. New hometown, new place, new people. It’s really just the beginning. It was kind of emotional at first. Now, I’m just trying to get better every day.”
The players will have two more practices on Saturday before finishing up the mini-camp on Sunday.