Quarterback Thad Lewis was making Thanksgiving plans for this weekend when he received the call to come to Houston. He had been working out and training five days a week at his alma mater, Duke University, waiting for his next opportunity.
"My role hasn't been clarified, but obviously I signed yesterday, so whatever the team needs me to do in any shape, form or fashion to help this team out, then I'm willing to do it," Lewis said Wednesday.
As luck would have it, he would be re-united with a familiar face, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, who served as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during his freshman year at Duke. Lewis recalled O'Brien as a "hard-nosed, tough coach" with an offensive mind.
"Now I'm a young man, then I was a pup, eighteen years old, a freshman," Lewis said, smiling. "Then you've got a coach that is trying to teach you a system that is hard for a guy coming out of high school to learn. Now it's different. It's at the professional level and it's a business. You understand the business side of it and you know the work to put in to come in and be that great quarterback."
O'Brien served as Duke's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2005-06. In 2006, Lewis set a school record for passing yards in a season for a freshman (2,134) and ranked first in the ACC and fifth nationally among rookies. He also ranks fourth on the league's all-time chart for freshmen in the ACC annuals for rookie quarterbacks.
O'Brien left Duke the following season for his first job in the NFL, offensive assistant for the New England Patriots.
"I'll never forget like yesterday and he told me he was doing it to better his family," Lewis said. "Now he's a head coach in the NFL. He obviously had a vision and saw something and I attest to that. I'm just happy I'm able to rejoin him at this level."
The Texans signed Lewis to the active roster on Wednesday, after placing Ryan Mallett on injured reserve. Lewis, who will wear No. 6 on his jersey, has an additional connection with O'Brien. Lewis worked with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels when he held the same position in St. Louis in 2011. McDaniels and O'Brien both served on New England's coaching staff from 2006-2008.
Lewis started five games as a Buffalo Bill in 2013. He passed for 1,092 yards for four touchdowns and threee interceptions. He spent his first season with St. Louis followed by two years in Cleveland.