By Ernie Williamson
I had lost interest in the Houston Texans after the Deshaun Watson scandal and the embarrassingly dismal seasons that followed.
But thanks to rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, I am back in front of the television watching every game.
The second pick in the NFL draft has the Texans - who no one expected to compete this year - in playoff contention with his spectacular play.
According to CBS Sports, Stroud is only the second quarterback in the common draft era to have a winning record through 10 starts.
As of this writing, the Ohio State product has surpassed 300 yards passing in three straight games, throwing for 1,162 yards and eight touchdowns.
In one game, he set the record for the most passing yards in a single-game by a rookie with 470.
His play has been so extraordinary that the buzz in NFL circles is that the kid could be the league MVP, an unheard-of achievement for a rookie.
But his play on the field is only part of why Stroud has become some popular.
In an era of self-absorbed celebrities and athletes, the 22-year-old also stands out because of his humility, civility, faith, and refusal to embrace our me-first culture.
He hired a personal chef, then started asking his new teammates to swing by for dinner almost every night.
According to a story by The Athletic, he pulled his offensive line together. You’re the heartbeat of the team, he reminded them. You can believe it or not, but I believe it.
Jon Weeks, the Texans’ veteran long snapper, sees the talent, but loves the humility.
The kid is unspeakably gifted, Weeks says, but he also understands there is some stuff at this level he does not know. He asks questions. Older guys appreciate that.
Stroud’s success is even more remarkable because of the hardships he has endured.
His father, who taught Stroud how to throw a spiral, abandoned the family when Stroud was 13, leaving the family to scrape by. The family lived in a cramped apartment above a storage facility.
His father ended up in Folsom Prison, where he is serving 38 years after pleading guilty to charges of carjacking, kidnapping, robbery and misdemeanor sexual assault.
For years, Stroud refused to take the calls from Folsom, but now, with his eyes opened by his father s plight, he talks of the need for prison reform, even addressing the subject at a post-game press conference.
While dealing with his family’s situation, Stroud was dealt another blow just before the draft.
A report was leaked that Stroud had flunked the S2 Cognition Test, a set of exams that claim to make the undefinable qualities of top athletes quantifiable.
There was talk Stroud would drop lower in the draft.
What’s a man going to do to me, Stroud asks now in an interview with The Athletic.
I fear God. I don’t fear no situation. I don’t fear a team. I don t fear an owner. What is so bad that’s gonna happen? I’m gonna drop to No. 10? Look at my perspective. I’m gonna get drafted, regardless of the dang test.
After drafting Stroud with the second pick in the draft, Texans’ head coach DeMeco Ryans said quite bluntly: You don’t pick guys based on a test.
As widely reported, the teenage Stroud once took account of all the things his mother had done to support him and his sister and said: Mama, you’re not going to have to do this forever. I just want you to know that.
Stroud will be able to keep that promise. He signed a 4-year, $36- million contract with the Texans and received a $23,384,904 bonus upon signing. All the money is guaranteed.
I am often appalled at some of the huge contracts athletes get these days.
But in this case, I don’t mind at all.
Go Texans. I am rooting for you again.
(Contact Ernie at email@example.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)