I was wrong. For nearly 20 months, I have cursed, chided and ridiculed you. I mistakenly believed you represented everything rancid about the ignominious Texans franchise. But—slowly, very slowly—I’ve come to find out you actually represent its greatest hope.
I still recall the day I found out you—and not Reggie Bush—were coming to town. “Crushed” doesn’t even begin to describe the depths of my sorrow. Fortunately, my grief didn’t last long. Unfortunately, it was instantly replaced with rage.
I’m going to be honest with you. I wanted Reggie. Big time. I hadn’t desperately desired anyone like that since I was a junior high kid watching Alyssa Milano on “Who’s the Boss?” for the first time. He was to be the team’s first true face of the franchise. He was going to help David Carr finally fulfill all that untapped potential. He was going to be our Earl Campbell. I couldn’t wait to watch those breathtaking, impossible runs. Hell, I couldn’t wait to use him on Madden.
So, yeah, you could say I was pissed when I heard the news. All those hopes and dreams formed during a 2005 season spent cheering every Texans loss were dismissively flushed down the toilet that Black Friday. Management obviously didn’t care. They didn’t care about me, or any of the other fans out there desperately pining for Reggie or Vince. Our face of the franchise, our people’s champ, our chosen one… gone. And in his place, we got you; some out-of-nowhere, questionable motor, combine freak equipped with none of the flair, charisma or credentials of our dynamic duo.
Understand, I didn’t blame you as much as I blamed the Texans brass. Up to that point, they’d infamously made one mistake after another, so—in my mind--choosing you was just the coup de grâce. I’m not going to lie to you; a big part of my inner fan died that day. And since the Texans were the last remaining team I actually semi-cared about, that hurt; probably even more than I’d like to admit. And as long as I’m being perfectly honest here, watching you get blocked one-on-one by wide receivers and tight ends on a regular basis didn’t exactly ease my pain.
But six weeks ago, something started to change: For you, and for me. All of a sudden, those all too sporadic flashes of potential morphed into consistency. Plays were being made and a steady stream of sacks were rolling in. And—not surprisingly--for the first time since your arrival, it looked like you were actually having fun out there.
Then last night happened. 3 ½ sacks. A hula dance. And a Reliant Stadium crowd justifiably chanting your name with gusto. You’ll be going to the Pro Bowl now for sure. God knows you deserve it simply based on overcoming everything I—and people like me—threw your way from the beginning.
Unlike my buddy Peter King, I’m not ready to declare you the “right” pick just yet. There are still far too many years, twists and turns to come. Things change fast in the NFL, and I believe Vince and Reggie are going to enjoy plenty of stellar days, too. But I can unequivocally say you weren’t a dumb pick. Far from it, in fact. And for perhaps the first time, I can honestly say I can’t wait to see what you do next, and I’m glad it will be taking place in a Texans’ uniform.
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Finally, don’t get too mad at me if I happen to hedge on some of the feelings expressed in this letter every once in awhile. It’s bound to happen. But if you promise to keep working hard, I promise I’ll continue keeping the faith.
So thank you, Mario. Thanks for a great year, a prime time performance, and for not holding a grudge despite my boorish behavior and inhospitable welcome. You know this isn’t easy for me to do, but I’ve finally mustered the courage to say it: I was wrong about you, Mario. And I’ve never been happier about it.