Rookie diary: James Casey

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Tight end James Casey, drafted in the fifth round (152nd overall) this April, is a former minor league baseball player who joins the Texans as a 24-year-old rookie from Rice. In his first diary entry for HoustonTexans.com, Casey discusses his whirlwind first two weeks as a pro.

We just finished our second week of OTAs, and I'm having a lot of fun. I'm definitely excited to be here. After you get drafted, you're still at your house and you don't really get to see all your teammates until you finally get here in the OTAs, so it doesn't really even feel like you're in the NFL. But now that I'm actually in the locker room and I've been through two weeks of practice, it's really starting to set in that, "Hey, I haven't made the team or anything like that yet, but I am an actual NFL player right now."

I'm really just cherishing every minute of it. I go out there and try to do well every day, but the biggest thing is just trying to get the playbook. There's so many formations, personnel groups, plays, and they put so much on you every single day, so just trying to keep up with all the plays is the hardest thing. But hopefully once I get comfortable with everything, things will start slowing down a little bit.

It's obviously up to the coaches and my teammates to judge how well I'm doing, but I think I'm doing pretty well so far. The big thing is I'm not missing too many assignments, because I think that'll get you backed up faster than anything. In one of our earlier practices, Coach Kubiak said that probably the rookies' biggest job right now is to prove to the team and all the coaches that we can help the Texans win. So I'm trying to come out every day and just try to prove to all the guys that I can do just that.

A lot of my Rice coaches came to practice on Thursday. The campus is really close, and I think all of them were here to watch. It was nice because they got to see how an NFL practice is run and maybe they can get some stuff out of that, but it was also really good to see them and have them come down and support me a little bit. It kind of made me feel more at home because I've been practicing in front of them for the last two years.

Still, it's really just surreal being in the locker room right now. It kind of hasn't hit me yet. I'm used to watching Mario Williams and Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton and Andre Johnson and all those guys on TV, and now I'm actually in the same locker room with them – although I don't get to talk to them much because I'm just a rookie, I'm still just trying to figure out what's going on. But it's still cool. I'm having a lot of fun with it and trying to just enjoy every minute of it so that regardless of what happens, I can always cherish these memories. I played minor league baseball and I got released after four years, so I know how fast it can be and how short of an opportunity I might have.

{QUOTE}As a rookie, it couldn't be any better than to be able to watch Owen Daniels every day. He's a Pro Bowl tight end, arguably the best in the league, so just watching what he does, how he goes about his business, how he blocks, how he runs his routes, those little things can help me out a lot. On top of that, he's more than willing to help me out if I have any questions, and he comes up to me on his own to tell me things every now and then. It's great to be able to watch him and learn from one of the best.

I've gotten pretty close with all of the tight ends, the guys that I hang around with all the time. I think Anthony Hill and I have especially kind of bonded pretty well. Our lockers are right next to each other and we're both rookie tight ends, so we've got a lot to relate to each other about. It's kind of good having him there, because I know he's going through the exact same thing I'm going through right now.

On Wednesday night, the Texans had an event called All Access at Reliant Stadium. I think about 10,000 season ticket holders showed up to get autographs and meet the team and take a tour of the stadium. It was a great experience. You know, it's one of those things that you kind of dream about when you're growing up, being able to sit at a table and have people come up and want you to sign autographs for them.

Going into it, I really didn't know what to expect. I knew we were setting up tables to sign stuff, but I kind of figured being a rookie fifth-round draft pick that probably hardly anybody was going to come by my table. But it ended up being there was a long line. I was signing nonstop until the very end. There were a whole bunch of people who came by and were like, "We're glad you're staying in your hometown." They said that they were just so happy the Texans drafted me and they said they couldn't believe I fell so far in the draft. I had a lot of Rice people that came by my table and talked to me, and I got to bond with them all. Everybody was really great, and I'm just so appreciative of all the fans in Houston that actually happened to stop by my table and want my autograph. I'm honored every time I give an autograph.

Thanks to everyone for their support and for checking me out here on HoustonTexans.com. I couldn't be any happier right now. My wife, Kylie, has been really supportive at home, and I'm having a great time coming to practice and learning more every day. As long as they keep letting me come back, I'm going to be super excited to be here.

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To send in a question for Casey that you'd like to see answered in a future diary entry, click [here](mailto:nscurfield@houstontexans.com?subject=Question for James Casey).*

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