Content can come from so many places in 2018, and if you're a Houston Texans fan or media member covering the team (or both, if you're like me), we've arrived at a perfect storm for former players' perspectives on our favorite team.
First, the proliferation of podcasting has given former players (or any human being with a microphone and a voice, really) an outlet to express views and converse with guests of their choosing. Second, the Texans are now an old enough franchise to have a number of former players whose opinions people truly care about.
It is at the nexus of these two developments where we find this week's episode of former Texan running back Arian Foster's "Now What?" podcast, in which he hosts former Texans wide receiver (and sole Texan Ring of Honor occupant ... more on this in a moment) Andre Johnson for an hour long sit down on a number of compelling topics.
Foster does a great job on his podcast of interspersing his views and opinions while drawing out long, thoughtful answers from his interview subjects. Having done some radio with Arian in the past (in 2011, he and I did a weekly show on a station here in town), I can attest that he has a natural curiosity about him that serves him REALLY well in this podcasting medium. In short, I'd recommend subscribing.
(NOTE: Before the anti-Arian crowd gets out their pitchforks, just know, I probably lean the opposite way of Arian on many issues, but I think he delivers HIS views in a way that's engaging and thoughtful, as opposed to an instantaneous "I'm right, you're wrong." He's very good.)
Here is the latest episode with Andre Johnson, via YouTube....
If you'd rather jump around and skip to the parts I thought were the best, here are the ten most interesting exchanges or pieces of information we learned in this podcast. One man's opinion....
9:53 — Drug talk, dope boys
This was one of the first exchanges of the podcast, in which the two compared upbringings, specifically the drug cultures of Albuquerque, NM (Foster's hometown) and Miami (Johnson's, obviously). Foster somehow made it through discussing Albuquerque's drug culture without a Breaking Bad reference, which for me, would have been like holding in a sneeze. Johnson brought up the "dope boys" who would hang around the youth games and pay players for touchdowns. Above all else, Johnson said most of the "dope boys" wanted to see the athletes get away from the drug life.
13:40 — Andre's Uncle Keith
When Foster asked Johnson about growing up without his dad, Johnson referred to the strength of his mother and the crucial role played by here brother, Uncle Andre. However, one new nugget revealed was that Johnson had another uncle named Keith who went to jail when Johnson was six years old. Apparently, Keith was a national football recruit, and in numerous phone conversations while in prison, Keith implored Andre to avoid being like him. Johnson cites this, along with a desire to provide for his mom, as a key element to staying on the straight and narrow.
23:10 — Arian asking for Dre's email address
This was a great story — when Foster was a practice squad rookie, he wanted so badly to get some insight from Johnson on how to be great. One day in the preseason, Johnson was lifting weights, and Foster got up the gumption to walk up to Johnson and ask for his email address. He then went and sent an email asking a bunch of questions, all of which Andre took the time to answer. It was one of those really cool anecdotes that reflects a great side of both players — Foster's desire to be special, and Johnson's willingness to assist.
28:09 — When he realized he was rich — fax of contract
Foster asked Johnson "When did you realize you were rich?" Johnson told a great story about his friends pulling his first Texans contract off the fax machine and marveling at the number of zeroes in the body of the deal. This led to....
31:30 — Very interesting money conversation
I'm not sure how this exchange will go over with the average fan, because a lot of it is two very wealthy men complaining about being wealthy, but they raise some interesting topics and points. Johnson laments the people who come out of the woodwork with open palms, and tells a hilarious story about asking a friend "If I gave you a million dollars, what would you do?" The friend immediately says "Buy two really nice cars." Foster's response is that he hates cars, and has been driving the same one for six years. I find exchanges like this about money way more compelling than those shows where it's like "Hey, look at the decadent stuff that super wealthy people are buying!!"
41:30 — Dre asked to be traded after 2012
Ok, now we get into the nitty gritty. We knew Andre had contractual issues in 2010. However, we did not know he asked for a trade after the Texans' 12-4 season in 2012. Apparently, Andre was the only one who saw the futility of 2013 coming. He goes all-in on how thin the roster was, chuckling that there were "a bunch of guys taking up space" and that "starters were playing special teams." Also....
43:00 — Dre had been asking for another receiver
.... it's probably no coincidence that this was the offseason that the Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins. Foster and Johnson also complained about how few splashy signings the team would make in free agency. Again, probably no coincidence that this was the offseason that Johnson's buddy Ed Reed came over in a disastrous free agency signing. I don't think it's out of line to say Johnson's fingerprints were, in some way, on the Hopkins selection and the Reed signing. Hey, one out of two ain't bad!
45:24 — 2011 was the year, if Schaub didn't get hurt
I've said all along, the best version of the Houston Texans was the 2011 team, with one caveat — a healthy Matt Schaub. That defense was a force with Wade Phillips in his first season coordinating, and the signings of Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning, to go with the surge of rookie J.J. Watt, rookie Brooks Reed, Glover Quin, Connor Barwin, and peak level Brian Cushing. I still say THAT was the year to win a Super Bowl. Foster and Johnson agree.
51:30 — Ring of honor skip (Arian skipped, too)
Now we get into the meat and potatoes about the hot topic of the last few months — Bob McNair's saying "inmates running the prison" at a meeting between owners and players. There's no use here in THIS space hashing out what McNair meant and didn't mean. It's clear what Foster and Johnson think he meant, and Johnson states publicly for the first time that he thought about bailing on the Ring of Honor ceremony last November, which would have been a humiliating catastrophe for the organization. Andre's cooler head prevailed, but Foster did indicate that he didn't go to the ceremony out of a personal distaste for McNair, saying there was no way he could shake his hand. Very compelling audio.
52:54 — Obama-que
Johnson finishes with what I think is a hilarious story — the day after the election, several players held a barbecue in the parking lot, complete with food, beer, and Fred Bennett's truck basting Young Jeezy's "My President Is Black." This star studded event took place shortly AFTER Bob McNair met with the team to share his views on the election outcome, but was not directly in response to those comments. Former Texans WR David Anderson confirmed on my radio show that the cookout had been planned weeks in advance. According to Johnson, Bob and Cal McNair both had to walk past the shindig to get to leave the building.
If that cookout doesn't wind up in an homage scene on the next season of Ballers, then the producers of that show are failing.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.