Honest question Texans fans.
Before Hard Knocks, did you know who Charles James II was? Kourtnei Brown? Lynden Trail? Uzoma Nwachukwu?
While some diehards will say yes, the majority had no idea. They were no more than names on a roster, unknown jersey numbers sure to fade away from the spotlight once the season began.
The beauty of Hard Knocks and what makes it the premiere docudrama in all of sports is the ability to give a face to the unknown. Every Texans fan knows J.J. Watt, but it is the introduction to players like James, Nwachukwu and Travis Labhart that really make the show special.
Hard Knocks tells their story, giving you a glimpse into who they are as people. In turn, you become invested in what happens to them, and a connection is made because you can relate to their experiences. We've all tried to chase our dreams, we've all faced adversity, and seeing that happen in real-time creates an attachment. You may not realize it as you are watching, but the associate is there. You can't help but care.
The last episode of Hard Knocks was the epitome of that emotional roller coaster. The crux of the show focused on those at the bottom of the roster and the battle to keep their dreams alive. You saw Labhart questioning his future, watched Brown's frustration, and saw Nwachukwu worry about what happens next. The drama was set early.
For Labhart, the end came calling. The final scenes of episode four showed the end of his tenure in Houston, as O'Brien thanked him but ultimately sent him on his way. Right after the show ended, one of the most searched pages on www.HoustonTexans.com was Labhart's bio page. People wanted to know more about him.
Normally the fourth game of the preseason matters little to the average fan, as relatively unknown names competes for a spot on the 53-man roster. However, because of Hard Knocks, this game means so much more to Texans fans. What will happen to James II? Will he and his #HappySocks make the team? What about EZ? Will Brown finally get to play in a regular season game for the first time in his career?
Don't believe me?
Here's your proof.
Yesterday, the Texans traded a rookie undrafted free agent to the Chicago Bears for a late round pick. Not exactly breaking news right? Think again. That UDFA was Khari Lee, and because of his impersonation of Bill O'Brien, which aired on Hard Knocks, our fans were collectively disappointed. Statements like 'we love Khari' and 'please bring him back' flooded our social media channels. The 1:20 video of Lee emulating the Texans head coach had endeared him to the Texans fan base. He was no longer an unknown tight end from Bowie State, but rather a fan favorite before ever playing his first regular season game.
Why? Hard Knocks.
So, when you watch tonight's game, there's no doubt Hard Knocks will be in the back of your mind. Every time James II is mentioned, or Nwachukwu gets a pass thrown his way, you'll know what is at stake. While football may be entertainment for us, for those on the field, this is real life.
Lucky for us, we'll get to watch it all unfold...today and next week on Hard Knocks.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 4/8/2021)