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Fans the reason for the season


Andre Johnson always makes a point to celebrate his touchdowns with the fans at Reliant Stadium.

If any Texans player can judge Texans fan support on Fan Appreciation Day, presented by FSN Houston, it's guard Chester Pitts. After all, he's started every game the Texans have played.

He's seen fans in other NFL cities and he likes the feeling of home at Reliant Stadium.

"It's wonderful to have the home city fans rooting for you through thick and thin, no matter what's going on," Pitts said. "For me, I absolutely I appreciate it. We all go out there and we have jobs to do. There's always a little something extra in it for you when people are behind you."

Sunday's game against Jacksonville will mark the 60th consecutive sellout at Reliant Stadium, and the Texans want to show the fans they have noticed the support they've received.

"It's been a great job on the fans part," wide receiver Andre Johnson said. "It doesn't matter what we've been through, they've been with us all the way. We have the best fans in the NFL. Most fans will turn their backs on you, but they stuck behind us."

The Texans have rewarded their fans with five home victories this season, a franchise record. Sunday, they'll host playoff bound Jacksonville. The impact of a strong homefield advantage cannot be overstated.

"This place gets pretty loud when everyone's into the game," Johnson said. "It rates up there as one of the loudest places in the NFL."

{QUOTE}Safety Will Demps came to the Texans as a free agent early this season after playing four seasons in Baltimore and one for the New York Giants.

"I can't say about New York, but Baltimore has fair-weather fans," Demps said. "There, they boo you in your own stadium. Here, I haven't seen it once and we've been blown out. The Tennessee game when we came back, they were still rooting and hollering.

"I can't say New York fans are bad, but between Baltimore and Houston, the Texans are up there with the fans."

The Texans will wear Battle Red jerseys for the second time this season, hoping to squeeze a little more magic by displaying their colors. Houston beat Denver 31-13 in their last home game, wearing red jerseys and red pants.

"The fans are what it's all about," tackle Eric Winston said. "We get hyped up when they're all here and the louder they get the better we play sometimes. It's awesome having the fan support, just being able to go out and play for them and the city. That's what it's all about. I'm glad we have a day for that."

Players definitely feel the fan vibes both at home and on the road.

"You always notice," Winston said. "We notice their fans and we always compare them to ours' and we've got some great fans. They are a big part of what we do and it's a lot of fun doing it."

Rookie Darius Walker stepped away from the frenzied fan support at Notre Dame to test himself in the NFL. He's warmed to the glow of the home crowd.

"I feel honored to be a part of this season and this team and this organization," Walker said. "They are world class citizens, a first class coaching staff and the fans really back us in everything that we do. You've got to love the fact we get a chance to give back."

Tight end Owen Daniels thinks fans are buying into the team's progress.

"Just to have fans behind us when we haven't had a winning season yet, this is the sixth season, loyal fans, we appreciate them coming out every week," Daniels said. "I think they see what's going on, the transition we're making here and the good things to come in the future.

"Hopefully, we can get this win and really prove that to them."

The Texans are 5-2 all-time in Battle Red jerseys. Demps would like to get another home victory for the fans, especially following Sunday's big loss to the Colts.

"We let the city down, we let coach (Gary) Kubiak down last week, we let the organization down, we let the fans down," Demps said. "It hurts."

Demps thinks the fans will show their support for the final game, anyway.

"They mean a lot," Demps said of the fans. "It doesn't matter how big we win or lose big games or not, they are not fair weather fans here.

"We're going to do things, we're going to make mistakes. We aren't always going to win the games we're supposed to win, but things happen and their support means so much.

"After a tough loss we had at Indianapolis, I know they're going to be out there screaming and excited about what's going to happen. No matter what happens in that game, they're going to cheer us when we walk off that field.

"We're excited for our fans."

Williams is feeling appreciated by the fans and by owner Bob McNair this season. While fans chanted Williams' name during his 3.5 sack performance versus Denver, McNair had kind words for his former No. 1 draft pick this week.

"The first year was a long season and I felt like everything was beating up on me," Williams said. "I was tired. I feel better overall (now).

"Mr. McNair is a great guy and the things the franchise had to go through last year were not fair. For me to come out and play better and produce and have some numbers if feels great for him to say some things about me."

It's not that boos have never burst from Texans fans. Pitts remembers a few.

"I've heard some boos before, that 2-14 year, and we deserved them," Pitts said. "The fans weren't very happy, but neither were we."

Hopefully, those days are gone for good.

Daniels would like to keep the cheering at a peak for the final game.

"We've got a chance to take this franchise where it's never been before," Daniels said. "So I'm excited about that."


EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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