J.J. Watt tells a great story about his first visit to Houston, detailing how a guy at the airport who had no idea of who he was noticed his Texans shirt and questioned the team's choice in draft picks. That choice was Watt himself of course.
Watt's clearly never forgotten the greeting.
Two years later, another Texans first round draft pick experienced a totally different type of welcome to Houston. They didn't just know who receiver DeAndre Hopkins was at the airport. There were fans waiting in Texans garb to scream for him.
"As soon as I got off the plane, I was greeted by fans. I know that this is love city."
These days, it's awfully good to be a Texan.
"As soon as I got off the plane, I was greeted by fans," Hopkins says. "I know that this is love city.
"I can see that right now from the beginning."
Yes, players are now recognizing Texans fans for their devotion. It's not something that should surprise anyone who was at Reliant Stadium when a large crowd filled up a parking lot for an NFL Draft party Thursday night. A party where the fans would have to wait for hours for the Texans to actually pick. It's not like the team had a Top 10 selection.
Still, the place was packed.
Hopkins felt some of that love in his airport arrival. It may have only been one or two fans at the airport, but as Watt can tell you from his post-draft airport arrival, even one fan can make a lasting impression. One way or another. Hopkins noticed the love and felt at home.
The guy who started out as a defensive back (and part-time ACC basketball player) at Clemson and converted to being the rare offensive ball hawk has taken quite a journey to get here.
It included seeing his mother deal with a horrific burning chemical attack that peeled off her skin, left her blind in the right eye and partially blind in her left. (USA Today first told that story in detail a few weeks before the NFL Draft). Hopkins was 10 years old when it happened. Later, Hopkins got in a car accident before the 2012 Orange Bowl, leaving him with a concussion and an even more driven attitude.
"His dad died in a car crash," Hopkins mother Sabrina Greenlee says, surrounded by cameras at Reliant Stadium, "so that . . . I was holding my breath."
Greenlee describes how Hopkins started in the front seat and ended up in the back seat when his car wrapped around a tree. Still, he'd play in the bowl game.
"He became an even harder worker after that," Greenlee says.
When you've been through what DeAndre Hopkins has, you don't take anything for granted. He'd reassure his mom that Houston is the right landing spot for him on the plane.
"He told me it's good," Greenlee says. "It's hot."
Then, the fans at the airport would reconfirm Hopkins belief.