In a rare glimpse of his personal life, Romeo Crennel opens up about his life growing up in the era of racial segregation during his compelling interview with the McNair family.
The 72-year-old defensive mind is the latest guest on the new video series, "Conversations for Change" discussing his experience as one of the first black coaches of his time as well as his thoughts on the current protests and movement for racial equality.
Led by Houston Texans Co-founder and Senior Chair Janice McNair, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Cal McNair and Houston Texans Foundation Vice President Hannah McNair, the candid conversation piece features Crennel in a roundtable format. The Texans associate head coach and former defensive coordinator opens up about his humble beginnings on a farm in Lynchburg, Virginia to becoming the first black coach at Western Kentucky in 1970, where he began his career as a graduate assistant coach.
"My thought was, knowing the lay of the land and what black people had to deal with, I felt like that I needed to be an example, that I needed to be on my p's and q's all the time to give other black people who come along an opportunity," Crennel said. "Because this was in '70, I was the only black coach on the staff. I was the first black coach and the only one on the staff."
Crennel also shared an instance where he was pulled over by police while driving and some eye-opening instances of racism that his family endured while living in Mississippi during his coaching stint at Mississippi in 1978-79.
"You try to keep doing the right thing and, for me, part of the reward of doing the right thing, some of the young black coaches who are in the league now, they call or meet me and tell me that they appreciate the image that I've set for them," Crennel said. "So that makes me feel good, gives me hope about our people getting opportunities."
Following the George Floyd killing that ignited worldwide outrage and protests, Cal McNair vowed to use his Texans platform to create awareness of systemic racism, empower black leaders and educate the Texans community. The McNairs and Crennel discuss their thoughts on the current events surrounding the protests and the public cries for social justice for blacks.
"I feel that it has a different feel this time," Crennel said. "When I saw what they did to George Floyd, it hurt my heart. I also think it hurt the hearts of many people watching."
In his 38 years with the NFL, Crennel has been a part of 16 playoff appearances with 12 division crowns, six conference titles and has won five of the six Super Bowls he has appeared in (New York Giants – XXI and XXV, New England Patriots – XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX). Highly-respected around the NFL among coaches and with his players, Crennel served as the Texans defensive coordinator for five seasons (2014-16, 2018-19) and assistant head coach in 2017. Following the 2019 season, Crennel was named associate head coach and will assist head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien.
Houston Texans Associate Head Coach Romeo Crennel sits down with Janice, Cal and Hannah McNair to discuss racism and social injustice in America.