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Full circle: DeMeco Ryans reflects on journey as Texans capture division crown


DeMeco Ryans stood in front of a raucous crowd of Texans fans, donning a white AFC South Division Champions t-shirt and matching cap ready to speak.

It was 2011 and Houston had just won the franchise's first-ever divisional title thanks to a dramatic, last-second victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"This is just the beginning," Ryans bellowed into a handheld microphone.

Fast forward 12 years later, on a Sunday afternoon back in Houston, Ryans was at home less than 24 hours removed from the Texans clinching an AFC Wild Card spot.

Following a 23-19 victory over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium the night before, cameras caught a candid moment for Ryans.

Texans running back Devin Singletary is seen embracing Ryans before he heads into the locker room. After he released, Ryans stepped back and leaned against the wall. To take it all in.

"I was there in the hallway just congratulating every player that walked in and took a moment just to reflect, just a moment of prayer and thankfulness, gratefulness for being able to be in this position, to lead this team, to lead this special group of young men," Ryans said. "And for us to accomplish what we set out to accomplish of getting that spot in the playoffs. I know what it meant to each and every one of our players, each and every one of our support staff. It meant a lot to everyone in our entire organization.

"So, that moment is just a moment of gratitude and prayer, just thankful."

As Ryans sat at home with his family on Sunday with their playoff ticket punched, they tuned into the Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans game just like every other Texans fan.

If the Titans downed the Jaguars, the Texans first-year coach would have guided Houston to the first AFC South championship of his tenure.

After turning the game on midway through the third quarter, Ryans and family watched. Then, as the Titans held on for a 28-20 victory over the Jaguars – they celebrated.

"We were excited, I'm jumping up and down with my kids," Ryans said. "Excited that we were able to win the division thanks to the Titans getting a win. Just an exciting moment for me and my family to share that together."

It is the first AFC South championship for the Texans since the 2019 season and the seventh in franchise history.

"It's special to win the division," Ryans said. "That's always the goal. You know if you win the division, you're in the playoffs. So, that's the goal each and every year."

"We're proud of that accomplishment, proud of the work that our guys put in throughout the year and they went out and they earned it. I'm happy the way we earned it, there were a lot of tough, gritty wins."

The Texans will now face the Cleveland Browns for the second time in a matter of a month for a spot in the AFC Divisional Round.

Just getting into the dance that is the NFL Playoffs wasn't the final, ultimate goal for Ryans and the 2023 Texans. Their aspirations go beyond just winning the division and getting in.

"Our guys understand our goals and what we set out to accomplish," Ryans said. "As true competitors as we all are, we talk about it all the time. We didn't come this far just to come this far.

"Everybody's excited about it, happy about the division. Congrats, now we have to move on, we have to continue to play football and go win games in the playoffs. That's what it's about."

The Texans host the Browns on Saturday, January 13, with kickoff slated for 3:30 p.m. on NBC.