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Rookie diary: James Casey


EDITOR'S NOTE: *Tight end James Casey, drafted in the fifth round (152nd overall) this April, is a former minor league baseball player who joined the Texans as a 24-year-old rookie from Rice. In his ninth diary entry for, Casey gives an inside look at his first NFL road trip.

*There's a lot to talk about this week, but I'm going to mainly write about the whole experience of my first preseason game, because it was just a dream come true.

It was everything I could imagine, from the time we left the stadium on Friday to when we got back late Saturday night. On Friday morning, we got a security screening at the stadium and then got on the buses. We had a police escort the whole 45-minute drive up to the airport, and then the buses pulled right up on the runway right next to the plane. On the plane, they gave us like three choices of great food, different kinds of Gatorade, a good movie, everything. It was all just first class, top of the line.

We ended up staying in a really nice hotel in Kansas City. I got up to my room and I was sitting in there for maybe an hour, waiting for my roommate to come, and he just never came. I looked at the little sheet they gave us and realized that I didn't have a roommate; I had a room to myself. I was just like, "Wow." The whole thing was just awesome. We even got two free movies at the hotel.

When I was in the minor leagues, we traveled everywhere on buses. We had charter buses, and it was kind of a crapshoot on what kind of bus you got. Some of them didn't have air conditioning, some of them had TVs that didn't work. I was in the Pioneer League in Montana one year, and we had a couple of bus rides that were 16 hours. You get done with your game and you get right on the bus and you're driving for 16 straight hours on a charter. It's not like you have your own comfortable seat, either; you're jammed in there like sardines. That definitely makes me appreciate this way of life a lot more.

{QUOTE}When we pulled up to Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday, I was just trying to take it all in and really keep things in perspective, try to realize how lucky I was to be in that situation, how blessed I was to be there and really try to take in all the memories. Regardless of what happens from now on, I know I can say I played in an NFL football game now, even if it wasn't the regular season. That's something they can never take away from me. I've been doubted a lot along the way, so it's probably something a lot of people didn't believe I could do.

A weird deal about this game was that NFL Films has been following me because they're doing some kind of "Hey, Rookie: Welcome to the NFL" feature on me. I'm used to watching NFL Films and seeing the cameras following someone else around pregame, but they were actually following me. So every little thing I did, I had the camera right in my face. If I wasn't nervous already, that made me really nervous.

When kickoff came around, I was so pumped and excited. It was kind of different, though, because I went out there and stood around for the whole first quarter and didn't play. That's something I'm not used to. But my very first play was on kickoff team, the first time I stepped on an NFL field, and I ran down and made the tackle. I was super pumped up, just really fired up after that.

I had a lot of firsts in this game. A lot of people probably don't realize it, but that was my first time to even play tight end in a game and my first time on all these different special teams. It was my first time in the NFL, period, so it was a totally new experience for me, and I feel like I did a good job. Getting that first tackle on the kickoff was huge for me. I felt like, "You know what, I didn't just get in there; I actually made a play." It was my first time to finally realize that I'm actually a part of the team and helping the team out.

The very first time they threw the ball to me, I made that one-handed catch in the pouring rain and it ended up being on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays, so I can't complain about that. I've built up high expectations now, I guess. A bunch of people have asked me if the catch was difficult, but really, it's just reactions. You don't plan on stuff like that; it just happens, and fortunately, I caught the ball.

A lot of people were texting me and telling me about being in the Top 10. That's a huge deal to get on SportsCenter – everybody sees it – so that was awesome. My wife was really excited about how well I played, and I feel like I did a good job, but I've got to keep building on it and just come out here and keep getting better. I've got three more games.

Someone asked me, "Did it feel like a preseason game?" and I said "No, it feels like the Super Bowl to me." I'm not guaranteed a spot on the team, being a fifth-round draft pick. Every game I play in could be my final game, and I've got to show them I can help the team win and treat it like it is the Super Bowl. There aren't any regular preseason games for me.

I didn't know what to expect going into the game – how fast the game was going to be, if I was going to be able to handle it, how well I was going to do. But I've got some confidence building now going into the next game. I'm starting to think that, hey, maybe I can help this team win and be a good player in this league. I've still got a long way to go and a lot to work on, but that's what these next few weeks are for.

I'm really excited about this week. We've got the practices with Reggie Bush and the Saints starting tomorrow, and I'm sure a lot of people are going to be coming out to practice and watching them. It's going to be fun for us, too – not only because of all the fan support, but because we get to practice against another team. It's just another opportunity to go out there and try to prove myself.

The first game in Kansas City was great, but now we're home and getting to play in Houston with our fans. I'm going to have some friends and family, a lot people from the Rice area, here at the game. My last time I played in Reliant Stadium was the Texas Bowl that we won, so I'm going to try and keep the streak of wins going here in Reliant Stadium.

Thanks to anyone who's been reading this and supporting me. I really appreciate it. Hope to see everybody out around the stadium this week.
James Casey rookie diary archive

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