Brooks Reed found himself sitting on the front row — only it wasn't for a ballgame. No, the Houston Texans second-year linebacker had the prime position for Fashion Houston, the city's big extravaganza of major designers and new looks.
And as a parade of slim models in futuristic, body-hugging looks (Reed happened to go on the night of a Herve Leger show that a Blade Runner crowd could appreciate) swirled by and his teammate Connor Barwin bopped his head, lapping it all up, Reed tried to find his own reference point.
He's still trying.
"It was interesting to say the least," Reed tells CultureMap. "I've never been to (a fashion show) before in my life. It was interesting . . . But why not?"
These Texans harken back to a time when professional athletes were allowed to be interesting.
Why not, indeed. This is pretty much the mantra of a defensive unit that is powering the Texans' Super Bowl visions, a unit that fully expects to be the No. 1 defense in the NFL by season's end (Wade Phillips' Bulls On Parade go into Sunday's home game against 1-8 Jacksonville ranked second overall).
This defense isn't just ferocious and capable of taking over any game at any moment. It's old school renaissance too. These Texans harken back to a time when professional athletes were allowed to be interesting, a time when you could admit to partying just as hard as you played.
Such as surprise flash mob birthday parties and nights watching the fashion runway.
Reed just hopes his fashion night out spurs the kind of run that immediately followed a "wild" Barwin birthday party that Lawrence Taylor would never understand.
For while Barwin is rolling again — with two sacks, a safety and 13 tackles in his last three games, his post party games — Reed is feeling the weight of his own low sack stats.
"I think about it," he says. "I'm very aware of where my sack numbers are and how they're not up to what I expect of myself.
"Some of it is bad luck. Some of it is not being in the right place at the right time. Some of it's me. I know I can do more."
Reed has two and a half sacks through nine games. He knows he's still making an impact for this balanced, star-packed defense. But he wants more big plays. After all, it may have been largely forgotten by now, but current Defensive Player of the Year favorite J.J. Watt wasn't the only Texan who looked like one of the best defensive players in the league during the playoffs last season.
Brooks Reed did too.
When Barwin recorded his first sack of the season just days later, the ultra surprise party suddenly looked like a brilliant idea.
There is a reason Sports Illustrated's Peter King predicted that Reed would rack up 20 sacks this season. And while those fantastical numbers may be long out of reach, No. 58 knows playing like that player by the playoffs isn't.
"I'm not overly stressing about it," Reed says. "Sacks kind of come in bunches. And it's a good time for me to get on one of those rolls."
Don't be surprised if it starts Sunday against the Jaguars. Reed had his fashion night out — and just ask Barwin what a difference a night of surprises can make.
Barwin wasn't feeling great on his 26th birthday. It happened to fall on the Monday after the Houston Texans' 42-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers — a national TV showcase humbler that saw Barwin miss three sacks of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Still, a few friends of Barwin convinced him to grab a drink at the MKT Bar inside the Phoenicia grocery store downtown near where the linebacker lives. Your birthday only comes once a year after all.
"I think about it. I'm very aware of where my sack numbers are and how they're not up to what I expect of myself."
Little did Barwin know he was being set up for a much bigger night.
"He had no idea," Mark Sullivan, a publicist friend of Barwin's. says. "He commented on how they were a lot of people in the bar for a Monday night, but then we went back to what were talking about . . ."
Then, the flash mob broke out.
It turns out all those people were there to break into a choreographed dance routine in honor of Barwin's birthday. Barwin was stunned at first. But as the music blared and the routine went on and on . . . he joined in for several moments.
Then stayed around to sign a ton of autographs.
"He showed total class," Sullivan says. "He was probably tired, but he signed for everyone, gave everyone all the time they wanted."
Later there was a big cake full of candles and an elaborate "Happy Birthday" rendition. So much for the quiet night.
Of course, when Barwin recorded his first sack of the season just days later, the ultra surprise party suddenly looked like a brilliant idea.
Sometimes you just need to get away from football to rediscover your dominance. Barwin made sure Reed got away this week.
"Only Connor would bring us to a fashion show," Reed says. "The guy knows every event that's going on in the city. He always has a new idea."
That's part of being the best defense in football too. These Bulls On Parade grab their moments — on the field and off.