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Houston Texans

Jaelen Strong: One Year Later

Jaelen Strong is one of the team's most improved players this year, according to head coach Bill O'Brien.

It's been a hard-earned honor and a long year for the second-year receiver.

Last year, as a rookie, Strong showed up to offseason workouts with an extra 20 pounds on his lean frame. He also suffered a hamstring issue that kept him out of most of OTAs. Consequently, he fell behind with the playbook and missed out on valuable practice reps.

A promising young receiver's first few months in the NFL began to spiral in the wrong direction.

"I didn't get bad advice, but I was going down a wrong road," Strong said. "People were just telling me good things. Nobody really was telling me what I should have heard. I came here and it was what I should have heard."

With all the adversity he had to overcome, Strong did receive some honesty. O'Brien didn't sugarcoat the situation for him. Strong needed to lose weight, get in shape, and work for a roster spot.

"He told me that I better get myself together," Strong said. "That's really when it started for me, the dieting and everything I do to get right."

From alterning his meals plans to "constantly running" and working out on off days, the weight melted off in time for training camp. Strong began to catch up on practice reps that he missed during the offseason, but his battle wasn't over. He was inactive for three of the first four games of 2015, not making a single catch until his Oct. 8 touchdown reception against Indianapolis.

"There were times I questioned myself," Strong said. "I had to look in the mirror and really say to myself 'it's time to go.' You can't come this far and then just give it all up. It's time to go. I took the coaching and the criticism, I took everything and just got right. It didn't really matter. It wasn't really about me at that point."

Strong finished his rookie season with 14 catches for 161 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, he learned what he needed to do in order to be a pro.

And he's kept at it.

"This is probably the best shape I have been in since I've been in Houston right now," Strong said Tuesday. "It's all about the work, just coming in every day, putting in the work on the field."

The Texans mandatory three-day veteran minicamp ends Thursday. Players will report back for the start of training camp at the end of July.

Check out some of the best shots from the Texans' first day of veteran minicamp.

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