"Roll with it. You just got to roll with it."
That's how rookie Dameon Pierce plans to keep nerves in check for his NFL debut. When the Houston Texans open their season on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the fourth-round draft pick will line up as the starting running back.
"As a rookie, he's come into the building, and asked 'What do I need to do coach?' First day, 'What do I need to do?', and then gone to work, doing it, showing up, hasn't missed anything, hasn't worried about practice squad," Head Coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday. "We had him on the special teams doing work. All different things we've asked him to do. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. He's earned an opportunity to lead us. It was asked, is he our starting running back? He's earned the right to line up there with the one's, the first snap and I'm anxious to see him play."
Following an impressive preseason where he averaged 7.8 yards per carry and scored a touchdown, Pierce earned the starting job for Houston. The Texans will rely on Pierce to fuel their ground game, which has struggled in recent years. Last season, Houston finished last in the NFL, averaging 83.6 rushing yards per game and 3.39 rushing yards per play.
"He's been running at a high level," WR Brandin Cooks said. "One thing I continue to tell him is to never get comfortable, always find ways to improve, and I think he took that to heart because you see him go out there every day working on something."
Smith has stated that he wants the identity of this Texans offense to be one that is "tough" and "loves to run the football." The Texans will lean heavily on Pierce and the rest of the backs, Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale and Royce Freeman to get the job done.
"Every day, we all got this goal that we want to win," Pierce said. "Other than winning, I want to play the best ball I can play. Stay healthy, stay happy and bring my teammates along the way."