A Lestar (Jean) is born


It took Lestar Jean's mother two attempts to get her infant son's birth certificate properly recorded.

"The people doing my birth certificate thought it was an error," said Jean, whose first name is pronounced Leh-STAR. "My mom had to send it back in."

Jump forward a couple of decades, and we find Jean trying to convince the Texans they didn't make a mistake when they signed him to a free agent contract after the end of the NFL lockout.

He's no longer just a number after two weeks at the Texans training camp. He's caught the eye of coach Gary Kubiak in practice and had a couple of fancy catches for 53 yards in Saturday' 20-16 preseason victory over the New York Jets.

It was enough to get Jean more playing time for Saturday's preseason game at Reliant Stadium against the New Orleans Saints.

"He's done good, and his reps have picked up," Kubiak said on Thursday. "He's going to play more in the game. More of a load came at him today, but he handled it good."

Jean grew up in Florida and played football at Florida Atlantic, where he earned a degree last December in criminal justice. He'd make an impressive law enforcement officer at a muscular 6-3, 216.

Still, he'd prefer a long career with the Texans.

"I just come to work and try to do enough that they'll want to keep me," Jean said.

Life is tough for a street free agent, and especially this year because of the lengthy lockout period that forced Jean and other undrafted players to wait five months before finding a team and a hope.

"It was a long wait," he said. "I was just working out hoping a team would pick me up. That got kind of boring. I just wanted to play football and compete. I kept working out and staying in shape."

After the lockout ended, seven pro teams – the Texans, Ravens, Vikings, Bills, Packers and Dolphins – inquired about signing Jean. He decided his best shot was with the Texans.

"They told me they were only going to sign two other receivers, and the others were signing nine or 10," Jean said. "They were honest with me, and I felt I had the best opportunity here."

Jean is still fighting a numbers game to catch on with the Texans. There are 11 wide receivers in camp.

He has improved his chances of at least a spot of the practice squad.

"He's making some strides," wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey said. "He's had a lot to learn in two weeks, and then he goes out the other night and makes some plays. He's got a good head on his shoulders and he's got some athletic ability. He does a nice job adjusting to the ball.

"He has some skill, but he has a way to go. He's learning on the run. So far, he's done a nice job, and we need to see him improve in the next ballgame."

On the heels of his eyebrow-raising performance on Monday, Jean at least has fans and media scrambling for the pronunciation guide to find out who was making those big catches against the Jets.

"I felt good about it," Jean said. "I was ready. I've been working every day. I wasn't surprised. I want to keep doing it so they'll keep me around. In college, I helped my team by making big plays. I just go play and make plays to help my team win.

"It's a blessing, to come from where I came from to get to this spot, it's a blessing."

What Kubiak hasn't seen with his own eyes, Texans defensive backs have told him.

"He's a big-body kid, and I've had some of the DBs come over to me and say, 'Hey, Coach, that guy is tough to handle,'" Kubiak said. "He's got a lot of ability. He's got that big body. There's going to be two young receivers on this team, so it'll be interesting to see who they are."

Jean could become another diamond in the rough unearthed by general manager Rick Smith.

"I told the guys you only get a certain amount of draft picks, so you have to have all those guys evaluated and ranked," Smith said. "We just felt good about his ability, and he's come in and done a nice job.

"In the salary cap era and the free agency era, it's important to find players that aren't your high draft picks that are able to come in and are capable of making an impact on your team. That's how you round out a solid roster."

The Texans opened with five wide receivers last season, and Jean has plenty of competition ahead of him to join that group. Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are locks. Dorin Dickerson leads the rest of the pack that includes Jean, Derrick Townsel, Terrence Toliver and Jeff Maehl.

Meaningless preseason games? Not to Jean and the others.

"I'm just trying to do something to make them want to keep me around," Jean said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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