Chad Hansen's chance came, and he took full advantage.
After spending all of 2019 and until yesterday, all of 2020 on the practice squad, Hansen was active on Sunday in Houston's 26-20 loss to the Colts.
His five catches for 101 yards came in a Texans debut that surprised fans, and a chunk of the media, but not Hansen's quarterback.
"I'm very confident in him and what he can do for us to help us out, and he showed it today," Deshaun Watson said. "He's going to make big-time catches, and he's going to be ready and prepared, and that's what he was."
Hansen was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Cal product caught nine passes that season for 94 yards, and played in all but one game. But he was cut at the end of next August's training camp, and then bounced around to the Patriots', Titans' and Broncos practice squads during the 2018 campaign. After getting waived by Denver, then signed-and-waived the Saints in the summer of 2019, Houston claimed him off waivers and he's been with the Texans since. But the winding journey, and not playing in a game in 1,071 days, wasn't easy. Suiting up for the first time since December 31 of 2017 was a big deal for Hansen.
"It's tough," Hansen said. "It was a blessing to get that opportunity and I just wanted to do the most when I got it."
His first catch came on the final play of the first quarter, when he caught a short pass over the middle from Watson for a gain of 14 yards and a first down. The next four went for 28, 15, 28 and 16 yards, and all resulted in Texans first downs.
This offseason, when Watson traveled to different parts of the country to throw with his receivers, Hansen was always there. When those receivers missed chunks of time during training camp, Hansen was always available to practice.
"When I went to Georgia, when I went to Miami, went to California, everywhere I went, Chad was always there," Watson said.
Watson really didn't get to throw much to Hansen during practice last season, because the latter was on the practice squad. But finally getting time with the Pro Bowl quarterback during the months from April through August paid dividends.
"I worked with Deshaun in the summer and created that relationship, and created that trust where he was able to throw the ball to me and not worry about where I was going to be or whether I was going to catch it," Hansen said.
A surplus of veterans squeezed Hansen out of the mix and he remained on the practice squad. An injury to Randall Cobb, the waiver of Kenny Stills, and the suspension of Will Fuller V opened up a spot for Hansen. He responded with a big day against Indianapolis.
"This is something I envisioned myself doing, from the beginning," Hansen said. "If you're in there, you've got to play like a starter. That was my mentality going into it."
Like Hansen, receiver Keke Coutee had a big game versus the Colts, finishing with eight catches for 141 yards. Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said the duo's performance spoke volumes.
"They were able to step in and do a great job today, and that shows how they prepare themselves, that hard work they put in that paid off for them, and I think that we see now that they can help this football team," Crennel said.
Hansen, Coutee and the Texans face the Bears on the road next Sunday, and Colts in Indianapolis a week later.