Andre Hal's winding 2018 journey took another remarkable turn in Sunday’s win over the Browns.
With just under two minutes remaining in the first half, and the Texans up 20-0, and the veteran safety picked off Baker Mayfield in the back of the end zone. It was the third straight drive the Texans defense finished with an interception, and it was the first pick of Hal’s season.
The fifth-year pro was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in early June. He went through treatment during the summer, but still met with his position group and worked on the side with the team’s medical and sports performance staff.
In late September, it was announced that his cancer was in remission. He joined the team for practice a few weeks later, and played in his first game on October 21 at Jacksonville.
“It means a lot,” Hal said Monday. “I had to get back into the flow of the game. I think I’ve finally captured my rhythm now.”
Hal, who’s played in four games this season, finished the win over Cleveland with a pair of tackles, a pass defensed and the interception. His head coach liked what he saw from Hal.
“Here’s a guy that has meant a lot to me, personally,” Bill O’Brien said. “We drafted him late in my first year here. He was a cornerback and we moved him to safety when he got here, started out on special teams, just a special guy, very hardworking guy, excellent pro. To see him make that play and the week before he made a real big tackle on the kickoff coverage, he’s just made some solid plays for us since he’s been back.”
Hal drew inspiration from an array of places and people in his fight with, and subsequent comeback from cancer. But his teammates have been inspired by Hal as well.
“It just picks this team up anytime he hits this field with us because we know how much he loves the game of football and how much he put into just to get back,” cornerback Johnathan Joseph said.
Safety Kareem Jackson agreed.
“It’s great to see,” Jackson said. “Considering the things he’s been through, it’s been a tough time for him. For him to come in and be a huge part of our gameplan week-to-week, to step in and play the way he’s been playing, to get that interception yesterday was definitely great to see.”
Hal said he’s feeling “better and better” each game he gets to play, and that he still has much to accomplish. He and the Texans are off on Tuesday, and they’ll resume practice on Wednesday at the Houston Methodist Training Center. Sunday at noon they’ll kick off versus the Colts inside NRG Stadium.
To the best fans in the NFL, thank you Texans fans for being the best homefield advantage!