Eight years ago, Brandin Cooks made his NFL debut in Week 1 as a New Orleans Saint. A first-round draft pick (20th overall), Cooks played but didn't start against the division rival Atlanta Falcons. When asked if he remembers that first game, the Texans leading wide receiver smiles and nods.
"No question, versus Atlanta in the old dome," Cooks said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win but I remember my first game like it was yesterday."
In the 2014 Week 1 matchup, Matt Ryan and the Falcons beat the Saints 37-34 in overtime. Cooks caught seven passes from QB Drew Brees for 77 yards (11.0 avg.) and a touchdown, while adding one carry for 18 yards. His seven receptions tied the most by a Saints rookie in their debut.
Cooks and Ryan will face off once again when the Texans host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Now in his ninth NFL season, Cooks is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving yard seasons with Houston with the same level of excitement for Week 1.
"It's a blessing to still be playing this game," Cooks said. "You don't take that for granted because some day you won't be out there for the first game. I love it as much as I did when I was a rookie."
On Sunday, Cooks will be surrounded by an impressive rookie class that consists of three starters in the lineup: RB Dameon Pierce and DBs Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre. Cooks, named a captain for 2022, had words of advice for the rookies in their NFL debut.
"One of things I told a lot of the rookies, especially the ones that are going to contribute right away, is that you're here for a reason," Cooks said. "They (the rookies) come from championship programs, a lot of them, so bring that winning mentality. No matter how young you are, at the end of the day, they know how to win and that's what we want in this building, winners. That's what you see from them when they practice and get out there and play."