Vote for bands/[All Access slideshow
More than 14,000 fans packed the lower concourse of Reliant Stadium Saturday to attend the first-ever "Texans All Access" event, presented by Wachovia.
In addition to the season ticket holders that were invited, some lucky members of the season ticket waiting list also won passes to attend the festivity and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Texans' 2006 roster and training facility.
Overall, "Texans All Access" offered a rare and unique look at an NFL franchise that many fans never had experienced before. While every player on the roster was made available for autographs, as well as some assistant coaches, fans also were given access to normally restricted areas in the bowels of Reliant Stadium.
Those in attendance were able to tour the locker room, training room, weight room and the Texans' cafeteria. Many fans snapped photographs to document the experience.
"I think the fan experience here is the best in the league," season ticket holder Dan D'Armond said. "I've been to stadiums all over the country and this is the best. What the team does in the community, making players available to fans through events like this, makes all the difference in the world."
D'Armond, who has been a season ticker holder since the team's inception, didn't want to miss out on the action Saturday and had only one thought after receiving his invitation.
"I better call and RSVP right now," he said. "I think it's great. It's showing that the team really wants to connect with the community and with the fan base by making the players available."
While D'Armond has been at Reliant Stadium since 2002, Joe Bendy has not. Bendy and his family moved to Houston during the Texans' inaugural season. They fell in love with the stadium and team during their first year in Houston and quickly ordered season tickets the following year and every season since.
"I like the way the Texans are part of the community," Bendy said. "I like the fact that the games are entertaining from beginning to end even when we don't win."
Bendy quickly reserved his tickets to Saturday's "All Access" event and said it was just another example of how he has seen the Texans reach out to the community.
"I thought this was a great opportunity for the Texans to showcase the stadium and the players," Bendy said. "They just continue to build their fan support. I think they need to do it. They need to be part of the community, and I think they are. It's not just a football team. It's not just about the players. It is what they bring to the city of Houston, and they bring a lot."
Fans were not the only members of the Houston community that got something out of Saturday's event. Texans players recognized the importance of reaching out to their fans, but ended up having just as much fun as they received a tremendous response from some of the most loyal fans in the NFL.
"It's been good," running back Domanick Davis said. "Everyone is looking forward to the season. I love doing stuff like this. It gives the fans a hands-on experience and it gives us a chance to talk with them a little bit."
Davis said it also helps the players start to think about the fall.
"All this does is make me nervous and ready to play," Davis said. "(The fans) want to see us win and I want to win, too. That's exactly what we're going to do."
Quarterback David Carr had a similar experience to Davis on Saturday.
"The fans have been great and they're excited," Carr said. "They haven't seen much football in a while. They can see it on the news or read about it on our website, but this is a great chance for them to come say hi, meet the new guys, it's pretty cool."
The line for Carr's signature was one of the longest, and he stopped to take photos throughout the day. He didn't mind because he readily acknowledges the importance of a strong fan base, and he gets a lot of satisfaction from meeting and talking to his biggest supporters.
"You don't get a lot of chances to meet the fans, the people who pay good money to see you play," Carr said. "Most of the time you're out there every day with the same people, but when you see the fans and their energy, it kind of gets you pumped up."
The event began at 10 a.m. as TORO and the Bull Pen Pep Band performed on Budweiser Plaza. The 2006 Texans Cheerleaders also took time to sign autographs Saturday.
The day ended with a rousing ovation for head coach Gary Kubiak, who introduced the fans to selected players, including rookie defensive end Mario Williams and Carr. The Texans' only two first overall draft picks in team history received standing ovations, and Williams even took a second curtain call after the fans continued to cheer for the rookie.
Other players introduced included wide receivers Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds, defensive ends Antwan Peek, Anthony Weaver and N.D. Kalu, linebacker Sam Cowart, and defensive tackle Robaire Smith.
The event ended with Kubiak thanking the crowd before Carr formally welcomed his new head coach with a t-shirt emblazoned with the Texans' new slogan: "I'm a Texan."
It was a fitting end to one of the most exciting days this offseason.