Remember a few weeks ago when I was saying that the Texans Draft Luncheon was one of the best events the Texans put on during the off season?
Well, Texans All Access is right up there with it.
And the good thing about All Access is that it's free. Well, it's free if you're a season ticket holder or know someone who is and could snag a few tickets from them.
I couldn't make this event last year due to an out of town commitment but I had this one circled on my calendar for a while because I wanted to see for myself what the hubbub was about last year.
All I can say is the NFL is alive and well in Houston.
Thousands of Texans fans were already inside Reliant when we rolled up fashionably late around noon on an almost October-like Saturday in May. We immediately headed to the stadium floor to check out the attractions.
A large stage was set up and a "Battle of the Bands" was taking place on about the 50 yard line in front of where the Texans bench would normally be. There was no turf in the stadium – just the concrete floor – but we did see a couple of fields worth of grass trays out in the parking lot near Fannin as we left and it looked good.
The stadium floor was jammed with Texans fans getting autographs of their favorite players. Those who aren't into autographs had the luxury of walking up to the side of the tables to take a quick photo of guys like Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson who were signing for many excited fans.
After leaving the stadium floor, we walked back through "Toro's Tunnel" hung a right and took a self guided walking tour through the team cafeteria, the team lounge, the training room, and the locker room. Cool stuff.
A ride up the elevator near the Texans Tunnel took us up to the 100 Level where at least 25-30 Texans players were stationed at autograph stations around the concourse.
I was very impressed with the turnout of Texans players and they seemed to be enjoying the interaction with the fans.
DeMeco Ryans, Dunta Robinson, Mario Williams, and Amobi Okoye had long lines at their tables as we walked past. I enjoyed seeing players like Fred Bennett and John Abbate for the first time. Then there were guys like Victor DeGrate and Joel Dreessen who challenged even the most hard core fan's player recognition skills.
Texans fans came from across the state for this event. Our neighbors in Section 102, Robert and Kathy Laura, made the trek all the way from San Antonio to get their Texans All Access fix before taking in the Astros - Rangers game Saturday night.
Topping off the Texans All Access event was a brief but very motivating appearance on stage by Texans GM Rick Smith and several Texans players.
You couldn't help but be excited as Smith introduced the players in their "I'm a Texan" t-shirts. Smith introduced Chester Pitts as a foundation player and acknowledged his 80 something starts. He talked about Dunta Robinson being on the cusp of a Pro Bowl appearance.
He introduced veteran Ahman Green and rookie Amobi Okoye to cheering Texans fans for the first time. Matt Schaub promised that Reliant will be rocking this year and DeMeco implored Texans fans to make Reliant one of the best home field advantages in the NFL.
Smith also got into the act, asking that fans arrive early this season, cheer the player introductions and even (gasp) give some grief to the opponent during warm ups. What a concept. Was that really our GM?
It was interesting to watch how the players interacted with Smith. It was also impossible to not notice the positive changes that have taken place inside this franchise since the end of the 2005 season.
Be optimistic Texans fans. And tell two friends.
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