The first 10 weeks of the season were an exercise in patience for wide receiver Keke Coutee.
Coutee, in this third season for the Houston Texans, saw action in just one game (Week 2 against Baltimore) and then would watch from the sideline for the next two months. Between Weeks Three through Ten, the Lufkin native would either be active without a catch or a healthy scratch for the Houston Texans.
"I feel like it's long and hard," Coutee said. "You know, you're just waiting on any given Sunday, just be ready to play. So for our extended period of time, you can't dwell on it because it can only get worse from there. So I feel like just keep believing in yourself and just being ready to go. You know, I didn't know my name was going to get called again."
After Randall Cobb left the Texans game against the New England Patriots, Coutee's name did get called again. Coutee's playing time increased and scored on a six-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson in the second quarter, giving the Texans a 21-10 lead. Two weeks later, Coutee exploded for a career-high 141 yards receiving against the Colts. In the loss against the Bears with Brandin Cooks out, Coutee stepped up and scored the lone touchdown for Houston.
"I'm very proud of Keke, man," Watson said. "It was a perfect opportunity for him to take charge and take over and show what he's capable of doing. That's not even his limit. He can even be a lot better. He can tell you that. He can sit right here too and tell you the same thing. All my trust and faith is in him to continue to keep growing and helping me as a quarterback and me and me helping him as a receiver."
Coutee, who has put up two 100-yard receiving games as a rookie, had high hopes for his NFL career. Injuries and then falling behind on the depth chart took his career on a slight detour. Now that he's on the field, his goal is to never take any of it for granted and to always strive for improvement.
And he agrees with Watson, the best may still be yet to come.
"I feel the same way as Deshaun," Coutee said. "I feel like I haven't reached my limit yet, not even close. So I had a lot of great games so far in my career, but I feel I can go even further. So, you know, just taking my game to the next level of never being complacent. I always want to be the best player in this league one day, so keep working towards that."
Through five games with two starts this season, Coutee is averaging 11.9 yards per reception and has recorded 17 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns.