As the season finale of HBO’s hit show Hard Knocks came to an end Tuesday night, it’s a reminder the season is only just beginning. I think I can speak for most Texans fans that we’ll begrudgingly trade in the laughter and behind-the-scenes coverage on Tuesday nights for wins on Sunday afternoons.
The real show (not to be confused with the reality show) kicks off Sunday at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.
While fans are undoubtedly clamoring for more episodes, others are ready for the cameras to be off. “Probably in my 45 years, probably one of the best days of my life, next to the birth of my children and my wedding, I guess. No offense to Hard Knocks though,” head coach Bill O’Brien told the media on Monday once the camera crews powered off and packed up.
In just five episodes, there were hundreds of top moments worth resharing and repeating. For now, lets discuss a few.
1. The show gave Texans fans a chance to really get to know the biggest newcomer on their roster – 6-foot-2-inch, 325-pound Vince Wilfork, fresh off the New England Patriots.
Fans across the league got to see Wilfork in all his glory, which at one time included bringing back (or inventing?) the fashion sensation of denim overalls sans shirt complete with a pair of cowboy boots. Because, Texas. We also got to see the big man show his moves during a pickup game of basketball, a highlight for pretty much everyone.
2. The sports-based reality series is also a resume builder, even if not for employment in Houston.
Defensive end Kourtnei Brown recently told the Tampa Bay Times that his exposure on the show helped make the case for the Bucs to claim him off waivers after the Texans released him. "You're playing in a game, making plays, not everybody gets to see it. When you're on (Hard Knocks) you get a lot more publicity than normal. ... When it comes on TV, that magnifies it," Brown told the Times.
3. The camera, the fans, and even Erin Andrews loved some players more than the Texans did.
In the final round of roster cuts, the Texans waived cornerback Charles James II, who was potentially the MVP of the entire series. Although he was made perfectly and wonderfully fit for television, he wasn’t quite what the Texans were looking for, mostly because of his size.
For now James has found a home for his quirky personality and aggressive play (and crazy socks) on the Ravens practice squad. Hopefully Texans GM Rick Smith will wear those socks he bought for James to serve as memory of just how awesome of a human and player he is.
Motivational words from James to help sum up his character and positive attitude: “I won’t be mad at myself if I give it my all and I get that call.”
4. The Texans are actually pretty popular – even outside of Houston.
The debut of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans averaged 826,000 viewers, which is up 34 percent from last year's debut with the Atlanta Falcons. The Texans debut was the best opening night for the Hard Knocks franchise since Episode 1 in 2010 with the New York Jets, which delivered 870,000 viewers, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
5. JJ Watt is good at corn hole.
Go figure. Is there anything this guy can’t do? (Answer: no.)
6. Bill O’Brien cares more about what his mother thinks than what any of us think.
After the debut episode where O’Brien dropped an astounding 14 F-bombs, a few fans (only a handful) were a little less than impressed. O’Brien told the media his first takeaway from the episode was that he needed to work on his language, at least for his mother's sake.
"My brother texted me, he thought it was awesome. My mom texted me, she didn’t think it was too awesome,” O’Brien said. But one thing is crystal clear – O’Brien has heart and passion for this team.
*If you happen to be one of those fans offended by O’Brien’s cursing, you’ll be happy to know that the foul language will be going to good use. O’Brien announced he’ll be making a donation to the Texans Foundation based on the “swear count” heard throughout the five-week series.
7. Fans finally get to see Jadeveon Clowney on TV.
Battling back from last season’s injury, Clowney didn’t see much playing time, but his appearances on Hard Knocks showed he’s working hard to get back out there. No one wants to see that more than Every. Single. Texans. Fan.
J.J. Watt + Vince Wilfork + Jadeveon Clowney = Mind Blown
8. The biggest storyline in the series remains perhaps the biggest question mark in fan’s minds: the quarterback.
We also learned that Johnny Football isn’t the only QB that sleeps through practice. Ryan Mallett and JFF must’ve bought the same brand alarm clocks?
9. The NFL is a lot like Broadway in that there are backups and understudies always waiting for their chance to shine.
Example? Alfred Blue learning the part of lead running back after Arian Foster’s injury.
10. Bill O’Brien is a huge Rick Ross fan.
For whatever reason, this is spectacular and shows a side of the coach that no other affection for any artist could possibly portray. It’s hard to put into words how awesome these scenes were.
11. DeAndre Hopkins lets the world know he wants to be a dog owner, specifically a Yorkshire terrier.
His explanation is one you’d never imagine in a million years, basically boiling down to wanting a man-bag to carry the dog in and taking him to nightclubs. Talk about a chick magnet.
12. Hearing Brian Cushing be Brian Cushing.
Every single word out of his mouth is entertaining and unexpected. Just one example?
DeAndre Hopkins: Do you drink lattes?
Brian Cushing: I don’t even go to Starbucks.
Hopkins: It’s great, bro.
Cushing: I mean, I used to [go]. Then I realized I wasn’t a chick.
Click here to see even more brilliantly recapped examples of Cushing being Cushing at Grantland.
13. Carli Lloyd is proof that NFL stars get star-struck too.
Sure she’s the USWNT hero, but she made quite the impact on the Texans, taking Vince Wilfork to the house in a field goal competition (they tied). But the best part of Lloyd’s Hard Knocks appearance in the last episode? Watching the guys fall over her, attempting to flirt.
14. Two words: Ben Jones.
I count my blessings that I've been lucky enough to meet Mr. Jones in person and see his sarcasm, hilarity and all-things-camo in person. The rest of the world should thank HBO for catching a few glimpses into this character, now at center.
The Houston Texans are the eighth team featured on Hard Knocks since its debut in 2001. The series has already won 12 Sports Emmy Awards – who thinks this season will bring another award to the trophy case?
The better question is – who thinks this team can win the Vince Lombardi come February?
Hard Knocks by the Numbers (via HoustonTexans.com):
No. of NFL FILMS production staff assigned to HARD KNOCKS – 115
No. of crew that will be living with the team at training camp in Houston, TX – 30
No. of cameras assigned to shoot training camp – 14 (6 manned cameras; 8 robotic stationary cameras)
No. of hours expected to shoot – Over 1500 hours (300 per episode)
No. of consecutive days crew will work on the series – 46 (July 24 to Sept. 7)