Growing up in Walnut Creek, Calif., a town just east of the San Francisco Bay Area, rookie punter Andrew Shapiro used to pretend he was Shane Lechler. During his first week as Lechler's teammate on the Texans 2013 squad, Shapiro admits he is still a little "star stuck."
"I don't think I can explain it," Shapiro said. "I've been watching Shane since he got drafted. When I was playing football in the streets I was always like, 'I want to be Shane Lechler.' So coming here now, I'm trying to be as professional as I can, but just being able to be in the picture with him in my first year is something incredible."
Once the initial astonishment subsided, Shapiro began to soak up all the advice he could from seven-time Pro Bowler and 12-year veteran Lechler.
"It means a lot to me," Shapiro said. "Just learning everything I can from him and being able to share the small stories with him and talk about when he did this or when he did that. The other day we were talking about a quote he had in the newspaper in the Bay Area and how I read it when I was a junior in high school, and he just said it the other day. It was pretty cool."
A communication major at Fresno State, Shapiro turned down a soccer scholarship at University of California, Berkeley to play football for the Bulldogs. During his senior season, he punted 64 times for an average of 42 yards and was selected to the All-Mountain West honorable mention team. He had 13 punts of over 50 yards with a long of 69, tying for the second longest punt in the conference.
Although he is nearly 2,000 miles away from home, Shapiro says the transition from the Bay Area to Houston has been a relatively easy one.
"I love Texas," he said. "The humidity was the biggest thing that hit me at first. But the people are actually very friendly. In California, people are just going places, they don't really stop and talk."
Over the last week, Shapiro has not only been displaying his skills on the field, but in the meeting rooms as well. During the annual "rookie talent show" the Texans throw together during late night meetings at Reliant Stadium, he showed his new teammates that he could carry a tune.
"I mean, I try to sing," he said, smiling. "I wouldn't say I'm good. Arian (Foster) and Ben Tate told me to go back up there for an encore after I sang the first song. That's the first time I've sung in front of anyone really. I was super nervous, but I guess they were impressed."
Shapiro's next chance to impress the team will be in the preseason games, which kick off Aug. 9 at Minnesota. In the meantime, he plans on being a student of Lechler's, relishing the opportunity to shadow one of the best in the league.
"I've been improving so much just from being around him," he said. "I'm gonna make the most out of it."